A Periodic Federal Science Update

Senate Appropriations Committee Marks Up FY 2019 Funding for NSF, NOAA, and NASA – On June 14 the Senate Appropriations Committee marked up and reported out the FY 2019 Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Act.  The bill contains $63 billion to support law enforcement, economic prosperity, scientific research, space exploration, and other national priorities.  The FY2019 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, which is $3.4 billion above the FY2018 enacted level, funds the U.S. Departments of Commerce and Justice, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Science Foundation, and other agencies.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is funded at $8.1 billion, $301 million above the fiscal year 2018 level.  This funding includes $6.56 billion for NSF’s research and research facilities, an increase of $222 million above the fiscal year 2018 level and $405 million more than the President’s request.  NSF’s education and training programs are funded at $915 million, an increase of $13 million above the fiscal year 2018 level. The bill also includes $89.2 million is provided for the design and construction of three Regional Class Research Vessels (RCRV), with $60.5 million dedicated to the start of the third ship.  

For NSF the Senate has transferred the Antarctic Modernization program to the Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction account, thus freeing up an additional $100 million for individual investigator, group, and center research and education activities.  The Committee included language on the importance of adequately supporting major scientific facilities and instrumentation, expressed support for both NSF’s 10 Big Ideas and core research programs via additional funds and a careful allocation of those funds.  The Committee recognized the importance of the “Windows on the Universe” and “Navigating the Arctic” big ideas as well as the “Rules of Life” initiative.  The Committee emphasized the importance of ensuring NSF-funded marine research vessels with unique capabilities remain available to the academic community for marine seismology research.

For the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the bill provides $5.48 billion for NOAA, a $426 million decrease below the FY2018 enacted level, to continue core NOAA operations including: ocean monitoring; fisheries management; coastal grants to states; aquaculture research; weather satellites; and severe weather forecasting. The Subcommittee rejected the administration’s request to cut funding for climate, weather, and oceans research by 41 percent, and instead funds the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) research at $508 million.  

The bill again rejects the proposal to eliminate NOAA programs like Sea Grant, the National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS), Coastal Zone Management (CZM) grants, and the National Ocean and Coastal Security Fund.  The Sea Grant program is funded in the Senate bill at a total of $83 million of which $12 million is for marine aquaculture.   This is $6.5 million above the comparable fiscal year 2018 level.  Within the Sea Grant appropriation, the Committee stressed the importance of the Knauss Fellowship and STEM education programs, marine aquaculture and also provided $2 million for lobster research.  NERRS is funded at $27.5 million, $2.5 million above the fiscal year 2018 level.  CZM grants are funded at $80 million, $5 million above the fiscal year 2018 level, and the National Ocean and Coastal Security Fund is funded at the fiscal year 2018 level of $30 million.  The bill provides $928 million to continue construction of NOAA’s three new Polar Weather Satellites, an increase of $50 million above the request.  The bill also provides $408 billion for NOAA’s GOES weather satellites.  The bill provides $75 million to complete a second NOAA survey vessel. These vessels enable NOAA to map the ocean floor, support weather forecasts, conduct oceanographic and climate research, and improve ecosystem and fisheries management. 

The Committee provided $30M for coastal resiliency grants – so-called Title IX funding – to be administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation with consideration for proposals that enhance ocean and coastal management; bolster coastal infrastructure and resilience; support regional collaborative efforts and partnerships; advance the collection, synthesis, and public sharing of ocean data; and help coastal communities adapt to changing ocean conditions. In addition the Senate bill provides an increase of $1 million for marine debris, reinstatement of the Prescott Marine Mammal Stranding grant program, an extra $1 million for competitive research and management grants for existing marine national monuments; $5 million for NOAA to work with academic institutions and non-governmental research organizations to establish innovative restoration projects to restore degraded coral reefs; an additional $1.4 million for enforcement of Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing; restoration of the competitive grants for climate research; $6 million for arctic research; $8 million to advance the National Oceanographic Partnership Program; and $28 million for NOAA education programs including $15.5 million for the Education Partnership Program with minority serving institutions.

The bill includes a provision reinforcing “Buy America” provisions with respect to the construction and acquisition of ships.  It also includes a requirement for a review of the suitability of the fleet of research vessels for the Great Lakes.

This bill provides $21.3 billion for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which is $587 million above the fiscal year 2018 enacted level.  The bill supports a space program balanced among aeronautics, science, technology development, and human space flight.  NASA Science is funded at $6.4 billion which is $179 million more than the fiscal year 2018 level.  The bill continues funding for the Wide-Field InfraRed Survey Telescope ($352 million), Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, and Ocean Ecosystem ($161 million), Climate Absolute Radiance and Refractivity Observatory-Pathfinder ($18 million), Deep Space Climate Observatory ($1.7 million), Orbiting Carbon Observatory-3 ($5.1 million), and Carbon Monitoring System ($10 million).

Aeronautics is supported at $725 million, an increase of $40 million above the fiscal year 2018 level, to ensure continued U.S. leadership in aviation.  For human space flight, the bill contains full support for commercial cargo and crew to support the International Space Station and for new vehicles that will take humans beyond low Earth orbit, the Space Launch System ($2.15 billion) and Orion ($1.35 billion).  The bill contains full funding for Exploration Ground Systems ($540 million) plus $255 million to complete a second mobile launch platform and associated upper stage.  Building on 30 years of NASA expertise in repairing satellites in space, the bill includes $180 million for the Restore-L satellite servicing mission.  The proposal to cancel key NASA Education programs is rejected, and these programs continue to be funded in the bill – Space Grant ($44 million), the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Technology ($21 million), and the Minority University Research and Education Project ($33 million).  The Education program is renamed “Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Opportunities.”

Senate Appropriations Committee Approves FY 2019 Interior/EPA Appropriations Bill – On June 14, the Senate Appropriations Committee took up the Subcommittee’s FY 2019 Interior/EPA Appropriations Bill. As marked up and reported by the full Committee the bill includes a total of $35.9 billion for the U.S. Department of Interior, including the U.S. Geological Survey, the Forest Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, and other agencies.  At $35.9 billion, this bill is $600 million over the FY 2018 level and almost $8 billion more than requested by the White House.  The Senate bill does NOT contain any so-called “riders” or controversial legislative provisions.  Specific highlights of this bill include:

U.S. Department of the Interior – $13.109 billion overall for the Interior Department, including full funding for the Payment in Lieu of Taxes program.

Bureau of Land Management (BLM) – $1.34 billion for the BLM, an increase of $11 million above the FY2018 enacted level.  Funds provided ensure a vital energy and minerals program and make important investments in improving public land management.   

National Park Service (NPS) – $3.21 billion for the NPS, an increase of $13.4 million above the FY2018 enacted level.  This includes increases for construction backlog, maintenance, and new park units.  $23 million is included for the Centennial Challenge grant program, which provides matching grants to address backlog maintenance and other needs in the national parks.  The bill maintains funding for the Heritage Area program at the enacted level of $20.3 million.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) – $1.57 billion for the FWS, which is $19.7 million below the FY2018 enacted level.  Increases include funding for the State and Tribal Wildlife Grants and the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA).  The bill also provides funds to support FWS implementation of the RESTORE Act and to maintain continued operation of fish hatcheries. The bill continues the prohibition on listing the greater sage-grouse as an endangered species.

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) – $1.148 billion for the USGS, equal to the FY2018 enacted level. Within this amount, important program increases have been included for energy and mineral resources, mapping, natural hazards, and water resources.  The bill also provides the requested funds for the Landsat 9 project and facility relocation expenses.  The bill includes an increase of $1.8 million above the FY18 level for the 3DEP mapping program.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – $8 billion for EPA, equal to the FY2018 enacted level. The Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds receive more than $2.86 billion, an increase over the FY2018 enacted level.  Additionally, the Water Infrastructure Finance Act (WIFIA) program is funded at $63 million, which will support loans to address water infrastructure challenges.  Categorical grant programs that help states implement environmental regulations are increased by $17 million.  The bill rejects the Administration’s proposals to cut research by 45 percent, grants by 48 percent, and regulatory and enforcement programs by 25 percent.  It also rejects the request to fund large scale buyouts to cut 3,500 agency staff, roughly 17 percent of the workforce. The bill provides $706 million for EPA Science and Technology which is level with FY 2018.  Report language emphasizing STAR grants and Harmful Algal Blooms was also included in the Senate mark.  The bill provides $25 million for lead contamination testing at schools and child care centers, $30 million for lead reduction projects in rural areas, and $15 million for water projects in communities working to improve compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act, which is $20 million more than the fiscal year 2018 level for these three programs combined.  

The Committee has restored funding for key regional programs including the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the Chesapeake Bay program, the Gulf of Mexico program, and the Lake Champlain program.  The Committee has included $26.7 million for the National Estuary Program and said, “…estuaries provide critical ecosystem services that protect human health and public safety. These include water filtration, flood control, habitat enhancement and restoration, shoreline stabilization, erosion prevention, and the protection of coastal communities during hurricanes and storms. The Committee recognizes that many industries rely on healthy estuaries, and the Committee has provided funding to ensure the protection of these critical ecosystems.”

U.S. Forest Service (USFS) – $6.29 billion for the USFS includes investments in funding for improved health and management of our nation’s forests, as well as increased funding to fight wildfire.  A $5 million increase for hazardous fuels reduction is provided to help prevent catastrophic wildfires, particularly in the wildland-urban interface.   

Wildland Firefighting – $4.345 billion to fight wildland fire, representing fire suppression funding at the 10-year average and $900 million in additional funding in anticipation of regular suppression funding being insufficient to cover the costs of fighting wildfire.  The bill includes $724 million for the Forest Service and $176 million for the Department of the Interior. 

Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) – $3.005 million, an increase of $5,000 above the FY2018 enacted level, for the CEQ.

DOE Releases Report on Basic Research: Key to Modern Technologies -- Basic research and scientific facilities sponsored by the Department of Energy (DOE) have played a critical role over the past 40 years in the development of a wide range of present-day technologies according to a new report released today by the Basic Energy Sciences Advisory Committee (BESAC).

The report, titled A Remarkable Return on Investment in Fundamental Research, explores the connections between DOE-sponsored fundamental research in fields such as physics, materials science, and chemistry and the present-day technologies in information and other fields that pervade our lives.  The critical role of DOE in these technological advances ranges from LED lighting and smartphone communications to more efficient internal combustion engines and lighter vehicles.  The report cites multiple examples of familiar modern-day technologies whose origins can be traced to DOE-sponsored basic research.  It focuses mainly on research supported by the Office of Basic Energy Sciences (BES), the largest of six major program offices within DOE’s Office of Science.

A Periodic Federal Science Update

NOAA RESTORE Funding Opportunity Announced -- The NOAA RESTORE Science Program’s funding competition on long-term trends is now open. This funding competition continues the Science Program’s desire to producing timely and high-quality scientific findings and products to support the management and sustainability of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem, including its fisheries. The priority for this competition is identifying, tracking, understanding, and/or predicting trends and variability in the Gulf of Mexico’s living coastal and marine resources and the processes driving them.  Applicants must propose work that addresses this priority in one or more of these areas of emphasis: exploring trends in multiple species; investigating the link between weather and/or climate and trends; and examining the relationship between trends and economic activity. To receive funding, applicants will need to directly address the needs of resource managers and have a clear plan for how their research findings or products will be used by resource managers. The Science Program is making approximately $15 million available now through this competition to fund approximately six projects for five years. An additional $15 million will be available for an additional five years of funding for high performing projects. In total, a project could receive 10 years of continuous support. Pre-proposals, which are required, are due by July 30, 2018 and the deadline for submitting a full application is October 29, 2018. See the full announcement for complete instructions on how to submit a pre-proposal and full application.

NIH Releases Strategic Plan for Data Science -- The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has released its Strategic Plan for Data Science to capitalize on the opportunities presented by advances in data science.  The plan describes NIH’s overarching goals, strategic objectives, and implementation tactics for promoting the modernization of the NIH-funded biomedical data science ecosystem. Over the course of the next year, NIH will begin implementing its strategy, with some elements of the plan already underway. NIH will continue to seek community input during the implementation phase. 

NIH Moves Ahead with HEAL Initiative – NIH has announced the launch of the HEAL (Helping to End Addiction Long-term) Initiative, an aggressive, trans-agency effort to speed scientific solutions to stem the national opioid public health crisis. Toward this effort, NIH is nearly doubling funding for research on opioid misuse/addiction and pain from approximately $600 million in fiscal year 2016 to $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2018, made possible from a funding boost by Congress. NIH’s efforts contribute to a government-wide push to meet the President’s goal of ending the opioid crisis.  HEAL will bolster research across the NIH to:

·       Launch a longitudinal study to follow patients 1) after acute onset of musculoskeletal pain and 2) after surgery to identify biomarkers that might predict which individuals are more likely to transition from acute to chronic pain. 

·       Leverage innovative imaging and -omics neurotechnologies developed through the NIH BRAIN Initiative and SPARC program to identify 1) potential new targets for treatment of chronic pain and 2) objective biomarkers to predict which individuals will respond to a treatment.

·       Pursue public-private partnerships to develop new non-addictive pain medicines by sharing data on past and present research projects, and matching researchers with a selection of potentially promising but abandoned pharmaceutical industry compounds to explore their effectiveness for the treatment of pain.

·       Build a clinical trials network that will allow multiple new and repurposed compounds to be tested simultaneously for effectiveness.  This allows ineffective compounds to be weeded out and new compounds to enter trials more swiftly.  The combination of testing compounds that already have received large investments and passed safety testing, and a flexible clinical trials network will significantly accelerate the development of effective therapies.

·       Working with federal and state partners, pilot demonstration projects to test the integration of multiple addiction prevention and treatment options in healthcare and criminal justice settings in states with the highest rates of opioid misuse and overdose to inform evidence-based practice.  Despite multiple effective prevention and treatment approaches, the majority of the 2 million Americans with opioid use disorder do not receive appropriate or adequate treatment for their addiction.

The Initiative will tap into the expertise of the NIH Pain Consortium, which was established to enhance collaboration among NIH institutes, centers and offices that conduct pain research.

Interagency Pain Research Coordinating Committee to Meet on July 9 – the NIH supported Interagency Pain Research Coordinating Committee will meet on July 9 to discuss an updated Federal Pain Portfolio Analysis and information about the NIH HEAL Initiative.  The existing pain portfolio analysis was originally developed in 2011.  The purpose of the portfolio analysis is to identify critical gaps in basic and clinical research on the symptoms and causes of pain and making recommendations to ensure the activities of the NIH and other federal agencies are free of unnecessary duplication of effort.  The current federal portfolio analysis is available here.  Information on the July 9 meeting, including instructions for submittal of written comments can be found here.

Congressional Briefing on a New Approach to the Opioid Epidemic – On June 15, the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering in cooperation with the Congressional Research and Development Caucus is holding a public briefing offering information on new developments in biomedical engineering that may contribute to dealing with the opioid epidemic.  Dr. Christina Smolke from Stanford University and Dr. Lori Setton from Washington University will conduct the briefing.  The briefing will take place on June 15 at noon in Room 2044 Rayburn House Office Building.  Contact AIMBE for additional information.

National Science Board Releases Report on Operations and Maintenance Costs for NSF Facilities – On June 6, the NSB released its new report, “Study of Operations and Maintenance Costs for NSF Facilities.” The report makes three recommendations:

·       NSB and the NSF Director should enhance agency-level ownership of the facility portfolio to elevate strategic and budgetary decisions and the agency’s Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction account (MREFC) should allow for greater flexibility. 

·       NSF and NSB should reexamine what share of the agency’s budget should be devoted to research infrastructure.

·       NSB and NSF should develop model funding and governance schemes for the next generation of partnerships at the agency, interagency, and international levels.

Between Fiscal Year (FY) 2002 and FY 2017, NSF’s budget grew, in real terms, an average of 1.1 percent per year while the number of proposals submitted to the agency grew by over 40 percent. This contributed to a decline in success rates across NSF from 29 percent in FY 2002 to 23 percent in FY 2017. At the agency level, O&M outlays grew 3 percent while NSF budgets grew 18 percent over this period.  According to the report, over the past 15-20 years, NSF invested 23.5 percent of its annual budget in research infrastructure--large facilities, midscale, and major research instruments. This is on the low end of the 22-27 percent range recommended by NSB in its 2003 report. The prospect of committing to the future O&M costs that come with new large projects may be discouraging directorates and divisions from embarking on them. The new report is available here.

Digital Coast Hearing and Coral Reef Reauthorization Bill – This week in Washington is Capitol Hill Ocean Week (CHOW 2018) – a week that celebrates the importance of healthy oceans and Great Lakes.  In that context the Senate Commerce Subcommittee chaired by Senator Dan Sullivan (Alaska) chaired a hearing that reviewed the accomplishment of NOAA’s Digital Coast program over the past ten years.  The Digital Coast was developed to meet the needs of the coastal management community. The website provides not only coastal data, but also the tools, training, and information needed to make these data truly useful. Content comes from many sources, all of which are vetted by NOAA.  Data sets range from economic data to satellite imagery. The site contains visualization tools, predictive tools, and tools that make data easier to find and use. Training courses are available online or can be brought to the user’s location. Information is also organized by focus area or topic.  The hearing focused on the value of the digital coast data for local and regional coastal community managers and set the stage for pending legislation that would formally authorize the program. 

In addition to Digital Coast hearing this week, Rep. Madeleine Bordallo (Guam) introduced her legislation to reauthorize the Coral Reef program within NOAA.  In particular, her bill aims to strengthen the federal National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) coral reef program, including establishing new federal grant opportunities for Guam’s coral reef projects, research, invasive/nuisance species control, and community monitoring programs.

Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Approves FY 2019 Transportation Appropriations Bill – On June 7, the Senate Appropriations Committee marked up and reported their version of the FY 2019 Transportation, HUD Appropriations Bill with funding to advance transportation infrastructure development and other key programs.  The bill prioritizes funding for critical transportation projects, programs to encourage economic growth and efficiency, and core housing programs for the nation’s most vulnerable individuals.  The bill includes $26.6 billion in discretionary appropriations for the U.S. Department of Transportation for FY2019.  This is $698 million below the FY2018 enacted level.  Within this amount, priority is placed on programs to improve the safety, reliability, and efficiency of the transportation system:  $1 billion for Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) grants, previously known as TIGER grants; $46 billion from the Highway Trust Fund for the Federal-aid Highways Program, consistent with the FAST Act.  In keeping with the two-year budget agreement’s emphasis on infrastructure investments, the bill provides $3.3 billion in additional funding for highway programs, including $90 million to eliminate hazards at railway-highway grade crossings and $800 million for bridge repairs.  The bill maintains flexibility for State Departments of Transportation to repurpose some stagnant project funding for current infrastructure projects; $17.7 billion in total budgetary resources for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which fully funds all air traffic control personnel, including more than 14,000 air traffic controllers, and more than 25,000 engineers, maintenance technicians, safety inspectors, and operational support personnel. 

The bill provides $1 billion for FAA Next Generation Air Transportation Systems (NextGen) programs and provides not less than $168 million for the Contract Towers program.  The bill also provides $750 million in additional funding for airport improvements; $2.8 billion for the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).  This includes $1.9 billion to Amtrak for the Northeast Corridor and National Network, continuing service for all current routes.  The bill provides $262 million for FRA safety and operations, as well as research and development activities.  Additionally, the bill provides $255 million for the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvement grants program, $300 million for Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair grants, and $10 million for Restoration and Enhancement grants. 

For the Maritime Administration, the bill provides $818 million to increase the productivity, efficiency, and safety of the nation’s ports and intermodal water and land transportation.  The Maritime Security Program is funded at $300 million.  The bill includes $40 million for State Maritime Academies (SMAs) and an additional $300 million for a new National Security Multi-Mission Vessel.  This training ship is essential for the SMAs to provide the nation with a strong merchant marine workforce.

A Periodic Federal Science Update

Congress Returns From Memorial Day Recess; Set to Start on FY 2019 Appropriations Bill – As Congress returns from its Memorial Day recess it is set to take up several appropriations measures for FY 2019.  In the House, a so-called “minibus” is scheduled for floor action.  The Energy and Water, Military Construction-VA, and Legislative Branch Appropriations Bills will be packaged together and debated next week.  The Senate Appropriations Committee is scheduled to take up its version of a Transportation-HUD Appropriations Bill.  The FY 2018 Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations bill, the bill that funds NSF, NOAA, and NASA, is scheduled for subcommittee mark up during the week of June 11.  Below is a chart comparing the FY 2019 allocations made to each House and Senate appropriations subcommittee based on the budget agreement reached in February to adjust the statutory spending caps for FY 2018 and FY 2019.  These allocations will ultimately have to be reconciled via the conference process that usually occurs later on in the FY 2019 appropriations process.

NOAA Releases Saltonstall-Kennedy Funding Opportunity -- The Saltonstall-Kennedy Act established a fund (known as the S-K fund) used by the Secretary of Commerce to provide grants or cooperative agreements for fisheries research and development projects addressing aspects of U.S. fisheries, including, but not limited to, harvesting, processing, marketing, and associated business infrastructures. The goal of the S-K program is to fund projects that address the needs of fishing communities, optimize economic benefits by building and maintaining sustainable fisheries, and increase other opportunities to keep working waterfronts viable. The FY19 solicitation seeks applications that address the following priorities: promotion, development, and marketing; marine aquaculture; and support of science that maximizes fishing opportunities, revenue and jobs in U.S. fisheries while ensuring the long-term sustainability of marine resources.  Grants and cooperative agreements are made on a competitive basis (subject to availability of funding) to assist in carrying out projects related to U.S. commercial and recreational fisheries.  Additional information on this funding opportunity can be found here.

DOD Releases Funding Opportunity – Bilateral Academic Research Initiative (BARI) Pilot Program -- The BARI program supports basic research in science and engineering stemming from interactive collaborative efforts between U.S. institutions of higher education and U.K. institutions of higher education that is of potential interests to U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and U.K Ministry of Defense (MOD). The program is focused on international collaborative research efforts where teams from the United States and the United Kingdom combine unique skillsets and approaches to provide rapid advances in scientific areas of mutual interests to the U.S. DoD and UK MOD. The area of interest is artificial intelligence (AI) and collaborative decision making. The research goal is to progress beyond collaborative human-machine sense making to develop approaches that might also enable collaborative decision making. The end goal is for humans and technology to be effective parts of the same team, with a machine behaving as an equal team member that can reason as well as its human team mates.  Award sizes are expected to range from $1 million to $3 million.  More information on the BARI funding opportunity can be found here.

USAID Requests Input for Forthcoming Funding Opportunity Related to Food Security Research -- USAID seeks to implement a Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Food Security Research, Capacity and Policy Influence, aiming to advance food security policy through high quality, relevant research from credible research institutions. The Innovation Lab is supposed to deliver on this vision by: strengthening the capacities of select country and regional research institutions to undertake research that is relevant and sound, to communicate findings in ways that are more likely to influence policy-makers, and to better manage their organizations so they can be sustainable over time; and implementing a global research agenda. USAID is seeking comments on this initiative to guide the development of final Notice of Funding Opportunity expected to be released in September 2018 with an anticipated award date of March 2019, subject to availability of appropriations.  More information is available here.

NOAA Releases Deep Sea Exploration Initiative Related to National Marine Sanctuaries – NOAA’s FY18 Deep-Sea Exploration, Characterization, and Education in National Marine Sanctuaries funding opportunity is being offered to explore and document the deep-sea oceanography, marine habitats, cultural sites, and living and non-living resources in and around national marine sanctuaries to better understand their biology, ecology, geology, and cultural resources. The research should use deep-sea technology and telepresence communication systems to create high-end 4K imagery, collect critical data and information, and create derived products with that data, including maps of deep-water regions in the National Marine Sanctuary System. In addition, the NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS) strives to engage broad audiences to enhance America’s environmental literacy through the excitement of ocean discovery. This deep-sea research should utilize telepresence technology from the research platform to beam high resolution images and video to distributed land-based locations to engaged distributed science parties, as well as to locations accessible to the general public and formal and informal educators and their associated facilities. ONMS regularly forms such collaborations to reach out to the public in innovative ways to improve the literacy of learners with respect to ocean issues.  More information on this funding opportunity can be found here.

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A Periodic Federal Science Update

Senate Appropriations Committee Approves FY 2019 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill --  On May 24, the Senate Appropriations Committee marked up and reported out the FY2019 Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act that funds U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) programs and critical infrastructure projects administered by the Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation.  The $43.766 billion measure, which funds programs related to energy security and economic competitiveness, is $566 million above the FY2018 enacted level and $7.24 billion above the President’s budget request.  The bill was approved 30-1.

The Committee approved the highest-ever level of funding for the DOE Office of Science in a regular appropriations bill and recommended historic, record-level funding for the program to spur greater innovation in energy research, high-performance computing, and next-generation technologies.  The bill also includes the funding necessary to improve and maintain flood control projects and ensure the viability of national and regional ports and waterways.

“I would tell President Trump and the Office of Management and Budget that science, research and innovation is what made America first, and I recommend that he add science, research and innovation to his ‘America First’ agenda,” said U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee.  “This funding bill is a good first step to doing that – it prioritizes federal spending to keep America first in energy research and increases funding to develop the next generation of supercomputers.”

Science Research – $6.65 billion for the DOE Office of Science, $390 million above the FY2018 enacted level and $1.26 billion above the budget request, to support basic science research and enabling research capabilities, development of high-performance computing systems, and research into the next generation of clean energy sources—all important areas for improving economic competitiveness, national security, and quality of life.

Energy Programs – $13.3 billion, $379 million above the FY2018 enacted level and $9.5 billion above the budget request.  Within this total, the bill prioritizes and increases funding for energy programs that encourage U.S. economic competitiveness and that will advance an “all-of-the-above” solution to U.S. energy independence. The ARPA-E program is funded at $375 million, once again rejecting the Administration’s proposal to terminate ARPA-E.

Christopher Fall Nominated to be Director of the Office of Science at the Department of Energy -- Dr. Chris Fall is the Principal Deputy Director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy. Dr. Fall served most recently for over six years with the Office of Naval Research, including as Innovation Fellow, as Director of the International Liaison Office, as Deputy Director of Research for STEM and Workforce, and finally as acting Chief Scientist. During this time, he also served for three years at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy as Assistant Director for Defense Programs and then as acting Lead for the National Security and International Affairs Division. Dr. Fall earned a Ph.D. in Neuroscience and a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Virginia, as well as a master of business administration from the Kellogg School of Management. He was previously a postdoctoral fellow or faculty member at the University of California at Davis, New York University, and the University of Illinois at Chicago.

DHS Announces Funding Opportunity for FY 2018 Preparedness Grants – The Department of Homeland Security this week announced the release of Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 Notices of Funding Opportunity for eight DHS preparedness grant programs totaling more than $1.6 billion. The grant programs provide funding to state, local, tribal, and territorial governments, as well as transportation authorities, nonprofit organizations, and the private sector, to improve the nation’s readiness in preventing, protecting against, responding to, recovering from and mitigating terrorist attacks, major disasters and other emergencies. The grants reflect the Department’s focus on funding for programs that address our nation’s immediate security needs and ensure public safety in our communities.  The FY 2018 grant guidance will continue to focus on the nation’s highest risk areas, including urban areas that face the most significant threats.  For FY 2018, the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) will enhance regional preparedness and capabilities by funding 32 high-threat, high-density urban areas. 

Consistent with previous grant guidance, dedicated funding is provided for law enforcement and terrorism prevention throughout the country to prepare for, prevent and respond to pre-operational activity and other crimes that are precursors or indicators of terrorist activity.

Grant recipients are encouraged to use grant funding to maintain and sustain current critical core capabilities through investments in training and exercises, updates to current planning and procedures, and lifecycle replacement of equipment. New capabilities that are built using homeland security grant funding must be deployable if needed to support regional and national efforts. All capabilities being built or sustained must have a clear linkage to the core capabilities articulated in the National Preparedness Goal.

All preparedness Notices of Funding Opportunities can be found at www.grants.gov. Final submissions must be made through the Non-Disaster (ND) Grants system located at https://portal.fema.gov.

DARPA Announces Proposers’ Day Conference for new SCORE Program – on June 8 DARAPA will hold a meeting for potential proposers to highlight the objectives of an anticipated Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) for the Systematizing Confidence in Open Research and Evidence (SCORE) program. The Proposers Day will be held on June 8, 2018 from 9:00 AM to 12:30 PM at the Executive Conference Center at Strategic Analysis, Inc. (4075 Wilson Blvd., Suite 300, Arlington, VA 22203). The event will be available via a live webcast for those who would like to participate remotely. Advance registration is required both for attending the Proposers Day in person and for viewing the webcast. DARPA is planning on soliciting innovative research proposals for the development and deployment of automated tools to assign Confidence Scores to different Social and Behavioral Science (SBS) research results and claims. Confidence Scores are quantitative measures that should enable someone to understand the degree to which a particular claim or result is likely to be reproducible and/or replicable. The SCORE program will develop automated tools that assign explainable Confidence Scores to SBS results and claims with a reliability that is equal to, or better than, the best current human expert methods. Proposed research should investigate innovative approaches that enable revolutionary advances in science, devices, or systems. Register for this DARPA conference here.  More details about this conference and the forthcoming SCORE program can be found here.

A Periodic Federal Science Update

House Appropriations Committee Marks Up FY 2019 Appropriations Bill for NSF, NOAA, and NASA – On May 17, the full House Appropriations Committee marked up and reported out the FY 2019 Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations bill which funds the Departments of Commerce and Justice, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the decennial census, and other related programs. The legislation contains $62.5 billion in total discretionary funding, an increase of $2.9 billion above the fiscal year 2018 level. 

The bill provides increases for federal law enforcement to crack down on illegal immigration, violent crime, gangs and opioid trafficking.  The bill targets funding increases for national security – including countering cybercrime, terrorism and espionage. Funds are included to continue investments in space exploration, advance groundbreaking science, enhance school safety, and provide adequate resources for the upcoming decennial census.  

National Science Foundation (NSF) -- The legislation funds NSF at $8.2 billion – $408 million above the fiscal year 2018 enacted level and $703 million above the Administration’s $7.4 billion request. Research and related activities are funded at $6.7 billion, $317 million above the current level and $500 million over the Administration’s request for this account. These funds will foster innovation and U.S. economic competitiveness, including funding for research on advanced manufacturing, physics, mathematics, ocean exploration, high performance computing, astronomy, major research instrumentation, cybersecurity, neuroscience, and STEM education. The Committee expressed its support for NSF’s Antarctic Modernization for Science program.  The Committee also reiterated its support for research infrastructure investments and called on NSF to provide no less than FY 2018 levels to support its existing research laboratories, observational networks, and other assets including astronomy, the current academic fleet, NSF’s FFRDCs, and High-Performance Computing Centers.  The Committee also apparently included some report language endorsing the continuation of marine research and support for existing related research facilities.

In the NSF Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction account, the bill provides a total of $268 million to be used to fund the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope, and three Regional Class Research Vessels.  Education and Human Resources is funded at $902 million which is $28.6 million more than the request.  Report language emphasizes the Advanced Technical Education program, early childhood STEM education, broadening participation programs, Hispanic serving institutions, and the Innovation Corps program.  

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) – The legislation contains $5.2 billion for NOAA, which is $751 million below the fiscal year 2018 level but $606 million above the Administration’s $4.6 billion request. Funding is targeted to the National Weather Service, the reduction of harmful algal blooms, fisheries management, weather research, and ocean exploration while reducing funds for other programs including eliminating the climate Competitive Research, Sustained Observations and Regional Information program as proposed by the Administration.  In FY 2018 this program was funded at a level of $60 million.  

In the National Ocean Service, $34 million was added to the request for NOAA’s Navigation, Observations, and Positioning program.  The Administration had requested a $5 million increase.  This program includes NOAA’s coastal lidar mapping program, the National Geodetic Survey, and the Integrated Ocean Observing System (at $37.5 million, $10.6 million more than the request).  In other NOS activities the Committee emphasized priority support for Harmful Algal Bloom research.  The National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS) program, which had been proposed for termination was instead funded at $27 million; and Sanctuaries and Marine Protected Areas program is funded at $57.5 million, $7.8 million over the request.  The Committee did not provide any funding for the Title IX fund for Coastal Resilience Grants.  In FY 2018 the Coastal Resilience Grants program received $30 million.

In NOAA Fisheries, the Committee maintained funding for the marine mammal stranding program (Prescott grants), added $18.5 million to the request for Enforcement which is where significant Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) activities are carried out by NOAA, and funded aquaculture at $15 million which is $5.7 million more than the request and level with last year.  The Committee also provide NOAA Fisheries with $10 million for additional Red Snapper management activities.

For NOAA Research (OAR), the Committee is providing $462 million for OAR operations and research.  This includes a nearly 40% reduction in climate research. Rejecting the Administration’s proposal to terminate the Sea Grant program, the Committee instead provided $80 million for Sea Grant (including $11.5 million for Sea Grant aquaculture).  The Committee also provided $48 million for ocean exploration or nearly $30 million more than the request.  Overall support for oceans, coastal and Great Lakes research is funded at $220 million which is $126.9 million more than the Administration requested and $14 million more than the comparable level for FY 2018.

For the National Weather Service, the Committee provides just over $1 billion for NWS operations which is $80 million more than the Administration’s request.  The Committee urged NWS to move expeditiously in its hiring of additional staff in FY 2019; restores funding for the National Mesonet Program at $14.5 million; and does not adopt the proposed decreases for numerical weather prediction modeling, the national water model, or Operations and Workforce Analysis testing and evaluation.

Finally, the Committee rejected the Administration’s proposal to terminate all NOAA education programs and instead provided $28.5 million for BWET regional programs, the Education Partnership Program with Minority Serving Institutions, and NOAA’s Education Program Base.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) – NASA is funded at $21.5 billion, $810 million above the 2018 enacted level. This funding includes: $5.1 billion for Deep Space Exploration Systems – $294 million above the fiscal year 2018 enacted level; funding to continue the development of the Orion crew vehicle, Space Launch System, and related ground systems; and $6.7 billion for NASA Science programs – $459 million above the fiscal year 2018 enacted level. The bill funds the requested amounts for robotic and human exploration of the moon, including $504.2 million for the lunar orbital platform; $116.5 million for advanced lunar and surface capabilities; $218 million for planetary science, including rovers and science instruments; and $150 million for commercial low-earth orbit development. Funding for NASA Science Programs recommended by the Committee includes:

  • Earth Science would receive $1.9 billion or $21 million less than FY2018, but $116 million more than requested.  The report does not specifically address the Administration’s proposal to terminate four Earth science missions (PACE, OCO-3, CLARREO-Pathfinder, and the Earth facing instruments on DSCOVR). 
  • Planetary Science is funded at $2.8 billion, $539 million more than FY2018 and $523.5 million more than requested.  It more than doubles the amount for Europa Clipper compared to the request ($545 million instead of $265 million) and adds $195 million for a Europa lander.  It also specifies $210 million for developing technology for planetary missions, including $35 million for icy satellites surface technology, $10 million for the Mars helicopter for the Mars 2020 mission (which itself is funded at $650 million), and $81 million (as requested) for production of plutonium-238 for use in radioisotope power sources for planetary missions.
  • Astrophysics is slated to receive $1 billion.  Within that, the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) would be funded at $150 million, the same as FY2018.  The Administration wants to terminate the project. The report specifies that NASA continue development of the coronagraph as a technology demonstration and allocates $20 million for the Starshade technology demonstration.  Separately it includes $10 million to search for “technosignatures,” such as radio transmissions, in partnership with the private sector and philanthropic organizations.
  • The James Webb Space Telescope would remain in a separate line item, not combined with the rest of astrophysics as requested, in order to “ensure visibility” as the project addresses a probable breach of its $8 billion cost cap.  It calls the recently announced schedule slips “an enormous disappointment.” JWST would get $304.6 million, the same as the request.
  • Heliophysics would receive $688.5 million, which is $2 million less than the request and the same as FY2018.

In a letter dated May 16, OMB called out the Committee’s funding of NSF and NOAA education programs as “not in line with the overall restraint in non-Defense spending reflected in the FY 2019 Budget request…”

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce-Justice-Science is scheduled to mark up its version of this bill during the week of June 11.

House Appropriations Committee Marks Up FY19 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill; Administration Opposes Committee’s Recommendations for Science and ARPA-E -- On May 16, the House Appropriations Committee approved the fiscal year 2019 Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations bill. The legislation provides annual funding for national defense nuclear weapons activities, the Army Corps of Engineers, various programs under the Department of Energy (DOE), and other related agencies.  The bill totals $44.7 billion – $1.5 billion above the fiscal year 2018 enacted level and $8.17 billion above the President’s budget request. Funding is targeted toward national security efforts – including nuclear weapons activities – and energy and water infrastructure investments.  

Funding for energy programs within DOE is $13.4 billion – an increase of $504 million above the fiscal year 2018 enacted level. This funding is targeted to encourage U.S. economic competitiveness and help advance the nation’s goal of an “all-of-the-above” solution to energy independence. Research and development to advance coal, natural gas, oil, and other fossil energy technologies, which will help the country make greater use of our rich natural energy resources and help keep down energy costs, are funded at $785 million – $58 million above the fiscal year 2018 enacted level. In addition, to promote innovation and growth in nuclear energy, research, development, and demonstration activities are funded at $1.2 billion – $128 million above the fiscal year 2018 enacted level. Energy efficiency and renewable energy programs are cut by $243 million compared to fiscal year 2018.  The bill includes $6.6 billion for science research – an increase of $340 million above the 2018 enacted level. This funding supports basic energy research, the development of high-performance computing systems, and research into the next generation of energy sources. These investments lay the groundwork for a more secure energy future, helping to reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil and ensuring continued economic growth.  The bill also rejects the Administration’s proposal to terminate the ARPA-E program.  Instead, the Committee recommends $325 million for ARPA-E in FY 2019.

The Administration released a letter commenting on the House Energy and Water Bill.  In that letter, the Administration commented on both the increased funding for the Office of Science and funding for ARPA-E.  On the Office of Science, the Administration said, “The Administration appreciates the Subcommittee’s support for prioritizing basic research but does not support funding in excess of the requested level.”  With respect to ARPA-E, the Administration says, “…The Administration is disappointed that the bill does not eliminate ARPA-E. The Committee is encouraged to explore options to incorporate certain ARPA-E attributes, such as cross-cutting research coordination and enhanced flexibility, into the Department of Energy's primary research efforts within the Office of Science and Applied Energy Research Programs rather than maintain a separate program through ARPA-E. 
 

A Periodic Federal Science Update

Summary of Draft FY 2019 Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Bill Released — The House Appropriations Committee today released the fiscal year 2019 Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations bill which is to be marked up tomorrow (Wednesday May 9 at 5PM). The bill funds the Departments of Commerce and Justice, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the decennial census, and other related programs. The legislation contains $62.5 billion in total discretionary funding, an increase of $2.9 billion above the fiscal year 2018 level. The bill provides increases for federal law enforcement to crack down on illegal immigration, violent crime, gangs and opioid trafficking. The bill targets funding increases for national security – including countering cybercrime, terrorism and espionage. Funds are included to continue investments in space exploration, advance groundbreaking science, enhance school safety, and provide adequate resources for the upcoming decennial census.  Most of the detail on proposed funding for specific programs or activities in agencies (i.e. Sea Grant) is not expected to be available until the bill moves to the full Committee for mark up.  A date for full Committee mark up of the FY 2019 CJS Appropriations bill has not yet been announced.  Below is some summary information released by the Committee this evening.

National Science Foundation (NSF) -- The legislation funds NSF at $8.2 billion – $408 million above the fiscal year 2018 enacted level and $700 million more than requested by the Administration. Research and related activities are funded at $6.7 billion, $317 million above the current level and $550 million more than requested. These funds will foster innovation and U.S. economic competitiveness, including funding for research on advanced manufacturing, physics, mathematics, cybersecurity, neuroscience, and STEM education. The bill also invests in important scientific infrastructure such as modernization of Antarctica facilities along with telescopes and research vessels.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) – The legislation contains $5.2 billion for NOAA, which is $751 million below the fiscal year 2018 level but $640 million more than requested by the Administration. Funding is targeted to the National Weather Service, the reduction of harmful algal blooms, fisheries management, weather research, and ocean exploration while reducing funds for lower-priority programs and one-time investments made in fiscal year 2018.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) – NASA is funded at $21.5 billion, $810 million above the 2018 enacted level. This funding includes: $5.1 billion for Deep Space Exploration Systems – $294 million above the fiscal year 2018 enacted level. This includes funding to continue the development of the Orion crew vehicle, Space Launch System, and related ground systems; The bill includes $6.7 billion for NASA Science programs – $459 million above the fiscal year 2018 enacted level. This targets funding to planetary and other sciences to ensure the continuation of scientific missions. The bill funds the requested amounts for robotic and human exploration of the moon, including $504.2 million for the lunar orbital platform; $116.5 million for advanced lunar and surface capabilities; $218 million for planetary science, including rovers and science instruments; and $150 million for commercial low-earth orbit development.
 

A Periodic Federal Science Update

Omnibus Appropriations Act Signed, Next Step Agency Spending Plans and FY 2019 Hearings– Now that the President has signed the FY 2018 omnibus appropriations act, agencies are moving to develop their FY18 spending plans.  These are plans the agencies prepare detailing their planning expenditure of the resources provided via the FY18 omnibus appropriations act.  Agencies’ plans will reflect their initial budget plans, guidance provided by the Congress via bill and/or report language, and their subsequent interpretation of the guidance provided by the Congress.  Generally, these spending plans are provided to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees within 45 days after the omnibus is signed into law.  The Committees provide comments to the agencies regarding their spending plans.  While the Committees usually don’t formally approve these plans, the agencies pay particular attention to the reaction and comments they receive from the Committees as they finalize their spending plans for the balance of the fiscal year.  Usually program directors await the finalization of the spend plan process before they are able to communicate to their stakeholders any details about resource availability for FY 2018.  As a result, it could take until May or June for agency program directors to be able to discuss the level of detail needed by prospective principal investigators.

NSF Seeking Nominations to Advisory Committees -- The National Science Foundation (NSF) requests recommendations for membership on its scientific and technical Federal advisory committees. Recommendations should consist of the name of the submitting individual, the organization or the affiliation providing the member nomination, the name of the recommended individual, the recommended individual's curriculum vita, and an expression of the individual's interest in serving. Self-recommendations are accepted. Each Directorate and Office has an external advisory committee that typically meets twice a year to review and provide advice on program management; discuss current issues; and review and provide advice on the impact of policies, programs, and activities in the disciplines and fields encompassed by the Directorate or Office. In addition to Directorate and Office advisory committees, NSF has several committees that provide advice and recommendations on specific topics including: Astronomy and astrophysics; environmental research and education; equal opportunities in science and engineering; cyberinfrastructure; international science and engineering; and business and operations. A primary consideration when formulating committee membership is recognized knowledge, expertise, or demonstrated ability. Other factors that may be considered are balance among diverse institutions, regions, and groups underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Committee members serve for varying term lengths, depending on the nature of the individual committee. More information, including a list of NSF’s advisory committees, can be found here.

NSF Funding Opportunity Related to Ocean Observatories Initiative Facility Board (OOFIB) -- The OOI is a large-scale ocean observing system constructed and deployed under NSF sponsorship and oversight as a Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction (MREFC) Project.  The system includes an integrated network of cabled and uncabled arrays of instrumentation, distributed in various coastal and global ocean locations, to facilitate Ocean Science research. The OOI is managed and operated under a Cooperative Agreement that is currently being re-competed.  An Ocean Observatories Initiative Facility Board (OOIFB) has been established by the NSF to provide independent, community-based input and guidance to the NSF and the OOI operator relating to OOI operations and maintenance.  The solicitation invites proposals for an Administrative Support Office to assist the OOIFB in carrying out its responsibilities to the OOI Program.  More information on this opportunity can be found here.

DOD Releases MURI Program Announcement -- The MURI program supports basic research in science and engineering at U.S. institutions of higher education that is of potential interest to DoD. The program is focused on multidisciplinary research efforts where more than one traditional discipline interacts to provide rapid advances in scientific areas of interest to the DoD. DoD’s basic research program invests broadly in many fields to ensure that it has early cognizance of new scientific knowledge. The FY 2019 MURI competition is for the topics listed in Section II. I, entitled, “SPECIFIC MURI TOPICS,” The detailed descriptions are intended to provide the applicant a frame of reference and are not meant to be restrictive to the possible approaches to achieving the goals of the topic and the program. Innovative ideas addressing these research topics are highly encouraged. Proposals from a team of university investigators are warranted when the necessary expertise in addressing the multiple facets of the topics may reside in different universities, or in different departments in the same university. By supporting multidisciplinary teams, the program is complementary to other DoD basic research programs that support university research through single-investigator awards. 

DOD Releases FY 2019 Defense University Research Instrumentation Program (DURIP) -- This announcement seeks proposals from universities to purchase equipment and instrumentation in support of research in areas of interest to the DoD. DoD interests include the areas of research supported by the Army Research Office (ARO), the Office of Naval Research (ONR), and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR. A central purpose of the DURIP is to provide equipment and instrumentation to enhance research-related education in areas of interest and priority to the DoD. DoD areas of research interest are published at the following internet locations: Army Research OfficeOffice of Naval Research, and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.

USGS Announces Funding Opportunity for Earthquake Hazards Research -- The USGS Earthquake Hazards Program (EHP) issues this annual Announcement for assistance to support research in earthquake hazards, the physics of earthquakes, earthquake occurrence, and earthquake safety policy.  This activity is authorized by the Earthquake Hazards Reduction Act of 1977.  A copy of the solicitation can be found here.

Funding Opportunity at National Geospatial Intelligence Agency -- The NGA mission is to provide timely, relevant, and accurate geospatial intelligence (GEOINT) in support of national security objectives. GEOINT is the exploitation and analysis of imagery and geospatial information to describe, assess, and visually depict physical features and geographically referenced activities on the Earth. GEOINT consists of imagery, imagery intelligence, and geospatial information. NGA offers a variety of critical GEOINT products in support of U.S. national security objectives and Federal disaster relief, including aeronautical, geodesy, hydrographic, imagery, geospatial and topographical information. The NGA Academic Research Program (NARP) is focused on innovative, far-reaching basic and applied research in science, technology, engineering and mathematics having the potential to advance the GEOINT mission. The objective of the NARP is to support innovative, high-payoff research that provides the basis for revolutionary progress in areas of science and technology affecting the needs and mission of NGA. This research also supports the National System for Geospatial Intelligence (NSG), which is the combination of technology, systems and organizations that gather, produce, distribute and consume geospatial data and information. This research is aimed at advancing GEOINT capabilities by improving analytical methods, enhancing and expanding systems capabilities, and leveraging resources for common NSG goals. The NARP also seeks to improve education in scientific, mathematics, and engineering skills necessary to advance GEOINT capabilities. It is NGA’s intent to solicit fundamental research under this BAA.  More information on this funding opportunity can be found here.

Army Rapid Capability Office Funding Opportunity Announced -- This Broad Agency Announcement (BAA), W56JSR-18-S-0001, is sponsored by the Army Rapid Capabilities Office (RCO). The RCO serves to expedite critical capabilities to the field to meet Combatant Commanders’ needs. The Office enables the Army to experiment, evolve, and deliver technologies in real time to address both urgent and emerging threats while supporting acquisition reform efforts. The RCO executes rapid prototyping and initial equipping of capabilities, particularly in the areas of cyber, electronic warfare, survivability and positioning, navigation and timing (PNT), as well as other priority projects that will enable Soldiers to operate and win in contested environments decisively. And estimated $50 million is available for this program.

NSF Announces Funding Opportunities for Management and Operation of the Advanced Modular Incoherent Scatter Radar (AMISR) Facilities -- NSF is soliciting proposals to manage and operate both of the NSF-owned faces of the Advanced Modular Incoherent Scatter Radar (AMISR) observatories that are located at Poker Flat, AK, and at Resolute Bay, Canada. These two observatories are managed and operated as a single facility which serves national goals in Geospace science research and education. These facilities are designated as Poker Flat Incoherent Scatter Radar (PFISR) and Resolute Bay Incoherent Scatter Radar - North Face (RISR-N), respectively. Awardees will work closely with NSF and the Geospace scientific community to ensure that each AMISR observatory supports, sustains, and advances Geospace science. In cooperation with NSF and within available resources, the Awardees will plan and execute a viable, coherent, and inclusive observing program to support Geospace research and education. AMISR activities will be carried out with guidance and oversight from NSF and through a peer review process. A copy of the solicitation can be found here.

Meeting of the DOE/Biological and Environmental Research Advisory Committee – The Department of Energy’s Biological and Environmental Research Advisory Committee (BERAC) will meet in open session on April 25 and April 26, 2018.  The meeting will take place at the Hilton Washington DC North/Gaithersburg, 620 Perry Parkway, Gaithersburg, Maryland.  The tentative agenda includes the following topics:  News from the Office of Science; News from the Office of Biological and Environmental Research; Updates from the Biological Systems Science and Climate and Environmental Sciences Divisions; and Updates on data science programs.  More information on this meeting can be found here

A Periodic Federal Science Update

Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) to Hold Briefing on Federal Support for Climate and Environmental R&D – On Friday, March 16 at 2PM Eastern the EESI will offer a briefing on the new report released by Novim which discusses the impact of the Administration’s budget for climate and environmental R&D.  Speakers at this forum include:  Michael Ditmore, Executive Director of Novim, Ari Patrinos, Chief Scientist for Novim; and Kei Koizumi, Visiting Scholar from the AAAS.  The briefing will take place in room 2360 Rayburn House Office Building.  A live webcast of the briefing will be streamed at 2PM EST here.  

Important Science Hearings This Week Before the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee – On Wednesday, March 14, the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee will hold a hearing on the current state of the Department of Energy’s national laboratories.  Witnesses for the national lab hearing include:  Dr. Mark Peters, Director, Idaho National Laboratory;  Dr. Susan Seestrom, Advanced Science & Technology Associate Labs Director and Chief Research Officer, Sandia National Laboratory;  Dr. Mary E. Maxon, Associate Laboratory Director for Biosciences, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory;  Dr. Chi-Chang Kao, Director, Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, National Accelerator Laboratory; and Dr. Paul Kearns, director, Argonne National Laboratory.  On Thursday, March 15, the House Science Committee will hold a hearing on the NSF’s FY 2019 Budget Request. Testifying for NSF will be NSF Director, Dr. France Cordova, and NSB Chair, Dr. Maria Zuber.

Air Force Announces FY 2019 Funding Opportunity for Young Investigators -- The FY 2019 Air Force Young Investigator Research Program (YIP) provides support for scientists and engineers who have recently received their Ph.D. or equivalent degree.. The program objective is to foster creative basic research in science and engineering; enhance early career development of outstanding young investigators; and increase opportunities for the young investigator to recognize the Air Force mission and related challenges in science and engineering. Individual awards are made to U.S. institutions of higher education, industrial laboratories, or non-profit research organizations where the principal investigator is employed on a full-time basis and holds a regular position. YIP primary investigators must be a U.S. citizen, national, or permanent resident. Most YIP awards are funded at $150,000 per year for three years, for a total of $450,000.  More information on the YIP program can be found here.

NSF Announces Support for the Future of Work at the Human-Technology Frontier: Advancing Cognitive and Physical Capabilities (FW-HTF) -- The Future of Work at the Human-Technology Frontier (FW-HTF) is one of 10 new and far-sighted Big Ideas for Future Investments announced by NSF in 2016. NSF aims to respond to the challenges and opportunities of the changing landscape of jobs and work by supporting convergent research to: understand and develop the human-technology partnership; design new technologies to augment human performance; illuminate the emerging socio-technological landscape and understand the risks and benefits of new technologies; and foster lifelong and pervasive learning with technology. In order to be nimble and responsive to new opportunities and challenges as they are recognized, focus areas for the FW-HTF solicitation, the centerpiece of the FW-HTF Big Idea, may change from year to year. This solicitation focuses on advancing cognitive and physical capabilities in the context of human-technology interactions. The solicitation, which anticipates providing $27 million to support two themes: Theme 1 will focus on Foundations for Augmenting Human Cognition and Theme 2 will focus on Embodied Intelligent Cognitive Assistants. In shaping projects responsive to these two themes, PIs consider the importance of understanding, anticipating, and shaping the larger implications at the individual, institutional, corporate, and national levels, including issues arising from the needs or consequences for training and education. In addition, projects should be framed in terms of their focus on the potential contribution toward (a) transforming the frontiers of science and technology for human performance augmentation and workplace skill acquisition; (b) improving both worker quality of life and employer financial metrics; (c) enhancing the economic and social well-being of the country; and (d) addressing societal needs through research on learning and instruction in the context of augmentation.  More information on this funding opportunity can be found here.

NSF Announces Planning Grants for Engineering Research Centers (ERC) -- In response to a study from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine [NASEM study], the ERC program is piloting a planning grant opportunity in advance of the next ERC solicitation.  The ERC program is placing greater emphasis on research that leads to societal impact, including convergent approaches, engaging stakeholder communities, and strengthening team formation, in response to the NASEM study recommendations. The ERC program intends to support planning activities leading to convergent research team formation and capacity-building within the engineering community. To participate in the upcoming ERC competition, one is not required to submit a planning grant proposal nor to receive a planning grant.  More information on ERC planning grants can be found here.

Senator Wicker and Senator Schatz Introduce Legislation Related to Unmanned Maritime Technology – On March 7, Senators Wicker and Schatz introduced the Commercial Engagement Through Ocean Technology (CENOTE) Act.  An identical version of this bill was introduced in the House and is co-sponsored by Reps. Palazzo and Panetta.  The CENOTE bill directs NOAA to coordinate its development of unmanned maritime systems with universities, the private sector, and the Navy. NOAA would be required to use unmanned technologies to address mission requirements. The data collected from these missions will be made accessible to the public, benefiting commercial, academic, and national security interests. 

NIH Solicits Comments on Strategic Plan for Data Science – On March 5, the NIH released a Request for Information (RFI) for comments and suggestions from stakeholders throughout the scientific research community regarding the NIH Strategic Plan for Data Science.  The NIH seeks comments on any of the following topics:  the appropriateness of the goals of the plan and of the strategies and implementation tactics proposed to achieve them; opportunities for NIH to partner in achieving these goals; additional concepts that should be included in the plan; performance measures and milestones that could be used to gauge the success of elements of the plan and inform course corrections; and any other topic the respondent feels is relevant for NIH to consider in developing this strategic plan.

NSF Dear Colleague Letter on Space Weather Operations to Research Proposals – The NSF’s Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences and Astronomical Sciences Divisions are supporting the National Space Weather Action Plan (SWAP) by calling for proposals as part of a 1-year pilot program that will facilitate operations to research (O2R) activities needed to improve space weather prediction. O2R covers a broad range of activities designed to ultimately improve operational capabilities and fundamental research related to these needs. This can include testing, evaluating, and enhancing operational models.  The National Space Weather Action Plan (SWAP) released by the National Science and Technology Council describes actions that are needed to improve the understanding of, forecasting of, and preparedness for space weather events. An overarching theme of the SWAP is the need for collaboration amongst the research and operational communities. A key aspect of this collaboration is the research to operations (R2O) and operations to research (O2R) pipeline. Recognizing the challenges related to this pipeline, SWAP calls upon agencies, including the National Science Foundation (NSF), to support efforts to facilitate the transition of space weather data and modeling capabilities to the Nation's space weather prediction providers and provide feedback from prediction providers to the research community on new research activities needed to improve the operational models. NSF, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), are conducting independent pilot activities to improve forecasts of the background solar wind, solar wind structures, and coronal mass ejections using solar and solar wind data and models, if possible employing data assimilation techniques.  The DCL can be found here.

NSF Calls for Proposals on Replicability and Reproducibility -- The National Science Foundation's (NSF) Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBE) encourages submission of proposals that target reproducibility and replicability efforts in data-intensive domains and that specifically rely on analysis of neuroimaging or neuroelectric data, including electroencephalography, magnetoencephalography, electrocorticography and functional neuroimaging.  These areas are being emphasized for support across several content domains, given increased cognizance of potential concerns about analytic assumptions and derived workflows and increased community awareness of the need to define and publicize best practices for analyzing, documenting, managing and disseminating large datasets. More information on this initiative can be found here.

A Periodic Federal Science Update

Congressional Negotiators Working to Finalize FY 2018 Omnibus – House and Senate Appropriators are working to resolve their differences and complete a full year omnibus appropriations bill for all non-defense discretionary programs by March 23.  This will include funding for NSF, NOAA, NIH, USGS, NASA, EPA and many other agencies including Transportation, Homeland Security, and Interior.  Earlier this month Congress passed and the President signed into law legislation that raised the statutory spending caps for both defense and non-defense programs.  The statutory spending limits for defense and non-defense programs were increased by 15% and 12% respectively for FY 2018 and by a similar amount for FY 2019 by new two year budget agreement.  This replaced the Administration’s original proposal for FY 2018 which sought to reduce non-defense programs by 10% and increase defense programs by 10%.  With the spending cap on non-defense raised, the Administration offered suggestions as to where to add back spending for FY 2018 should be directed including: $819M to get NSF back to the FY 2017 level; $300M for NASA programs; and $239M for NOAA’s polar satellite program.

NSF Releases Details of its FY 2019 Budget Request – The National Science Foundation (NSF) released more detailed information regarding President Donald J. Trump's Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 NSF budget request to Congress.  The FY2019 budget request would represent a $7.47 billion investment in strengthening the nation's economy, security and global leadership through research in cutting-edge science and engineering. At this proposed level of funding, steady with FY2017 congressional appropriations, NSF would continue its work supporting research that advances national priorities such as growth in manufacturing, defense and cybersecurity.

While continuing to support the programs and offices that help maintain the nation's preeminence in innovation, NSF would accelerate the progress of its "10 Big Ideas for Future Investments" in FY2019, dedicating funding and resources to high-priority areas that integrate multiple fields of science and engineering and create opportunities to partner with industry, private foundations, other federal agencies and the education sector.

Through its Big Ideas Stewardship Funding Model, NSF would commit $30 million to each of six research-focused Big Ideas, for a total of $180 million. Those Big Ideas are: Harnessing the Data Revolution (HDR); The Future of Work at the Human Technology Frontier (FW-HTF); Windows on the Universe (WoU): The Era of Multi-messenger Astrophysics; The Quantum Leap (QL): Leading the Next Quantum Revolution; Understanding the Rules of Life (URoL): Predicting Phenotype; and Navigating the New Arctic (NNA).

In response to questions about how the Big Ideas impact funding levels for existing NSF programs the agency said,

Increasingly, collaboration and convergence are necessary to achieving NSF's mission. The Big Ideas and the Convergence Accelerators NSF would prioritize in FY2019 are prime examples of this. NSF must leverage innovation across all supported fields of research to remain at the frontiers of science and engineering. NSF's investment in the Big Ideas and Convergence Accelerators is not a zero-sum game. The fundamental research underlying the Big Ideas has been supported through many NSF programs for a number of years, and in some cases, for decades. This budget request is a reflection of the changing model of science and engineering research today, which defies existing stovepipe thinking and encourages innovative approaches to research through leveraging resources across all fields of science.  NSF will continue planning budget levels for individual programs when the final FY2019 budget is passed.”

The budget request also calls for NSF to invest $60 million in two Convergence Accelerators -- new vehicles to leverage resources across the agency to support the most innovative science, pursuant to the HDR and FW-HTF Big Ideas. The remaining four Big Ideas, which focus on enhancing processes and practices to improve U.S. science and engineering, are emphasized in the budget request as well. This emphasis includes $20 million for NSF INCLUDES, which focuses on creating networks to broaden participation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Other highlights under the budget request:

·       The Antarctic Infrastructure Modernization for Science (AIMS) construction project would receive $103.7 million. NSF manages all U.S. activities on the continent as a single, integrated program, making Antarctic research possible for scientists supported by NSF and other U.S. agencies.

·       Cybersecurity research would receive $160.6 million, supporting projects that protect and preserve cyber systems while ensuring preservation of individual privacy and usability.

·       NSF Innovation Corps (I-Corps™), which works to bridge the gap between discoveries and commercialization of technologies, would receive $30 million.

·       CyberCorps®: Scholarship for Service, which supports cybersecurity education and research at higher education institutions, would receive $55 million and engage undergraduate students, with a focus on veterans.

NSF’s annual budget would represent approximately 27 percent of the total federal budget for basic research conducted at U.S. colleges and universities -- 60 percent when medical research supported by the National Institutes of Health is excluded.  In FY2019, NSF would expect to evaluate approximately 50,600 proposals through its competitive merit review process and make approximately 11,100 new competitive awards. NSF expects that over 93 percent of its FY2019 requested budget would be used to fund research and education grants and research infrastructure in the science and education communities.

Senate Confirms Neil Jacobs for Assistant Secretary of Commerce at NOAA – On February 15 the Senate, by a voice vote, confirmed Neil Jacobs to be the Assistant Secretary for Environmental Observation and Prediction and Assistant Administrator for NOAA Satellite & Information Services.  Dr. Jacobs was nominated in October 2017.  Before coming to NOAA, Dr. Jacobs was Chief Atmospheric Scientist for Panasonic Avionics Corporation.  During his confirmation process, Dr. Jacobs outlined the top three challenges facing NOAA which include: improve weather forecasting and modeling; increase observational and predictive resource capabilities; and manage satellite costs.  Read Dr. Jacobs’ answers to the Senate Commerce Committee’s questionnaire on his views and experience related to serving at NOAA here.  The nomination of Barry Myers to be the next NOAA Administrator remains pending in the Senate.

Department of Interior Seeks Comments on List of 35 Critical Minerals – The Department of the Interior announced it is seeking public comment by March 19, 2018, on a draft list of minerals considered critical to the economic and national security of the U.S. Executive Order 13817 directed DOI, in coordination with other agencies, to publish a list of critical minerals in the Federal Register for review and comment.  The USGS compiled the list and is seeking comments on its proposed list.  The draft list of minerals includes 35 mineral commodities, such as aluminum—used in almost all sectors of the economy; the platinum group metals—used for catalytic agents; rare-earth elements—used in batteries and electronics; tin—used as protective coatings and alloys for steel; and titanium—overwhelmingly used as a white pigment or as a metal alloy. Under the Executive Order, a “critical mineral” is a mineral identified to be a non-fuel mineral or mineral material essential to the economic and national security of the United States, the supply chain of which is vulnerable to disruption, and that serves an essential function in the manufacturing of a product, the absence of which would have significant consequences for the economy or national security.  The list of critical minerals and information on commenting on the proposal can be found here

DARPA to Hold Proposers Day for Forthcoming Solicitation -- The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Defense Sciences Office (DSO) is sponsoring a Proposers Day to provide information to potential proposers on the objectives of an anticipated Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) for the SIGMA+ initiative (sensors thrust). The Proposers Day will be held on March 7, 2018 from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM at the Executive Conference Center (4075 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 300, Arlington, VA 22203). The event will be webcast for those who would like to participate remotely. Advance registration is required both for attending the Proposers Day in person and for viewing the webcast. The SIGMA program began in late 2014 as an effort to significantly advance scalable detection capabilities against radiological and nuclear (RN) weapons of mass destruction (WMD) threats from non-traditional, clandestine attack vectors. SIGMA developed and networked thousands of high-capability, low-cost detectors to demonstrate large-scale, continuously streaming physical sensor networks for the RN interdiction mission. SIGMA capabilities have been tested and operationalized with federal, state, and international partners.  The SIGMA+ initiative will build on SIGMA by developing a persistent, real-time, early detection system for the full spectrum of chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosives (CBRNE) WMD threats at the city-to-region scale. Specific targeted capabilities for each threat mode will focus the envisioned sensor, advanced intelligence analytics, and adversary modeling developments under one shared infrastructure and ubiquitous mobile sensing strategy.

NAML, COL, and Sea Grant Association Meetings in Washington Next Week – Numerous organizations concerned with funding for ocean and coastal science and education will be meeting in Washington next week in an effort to inform agency and Congressional decision makers on the importance of strengthening the investment in research and education.  The National Association of Marine Laboratories (NAML) will be meeting on Sunday and Monday (March 4 and 5).  Scheduled to meet with NAML members will be senior officials from NSF and NOAA.  The agenda for the NAML meeting can be found here.  The Sea Grant Association is meeting on Wednesday and Thursday and will also hear from senior NOAA leadership as well as meeting Members and Congressional staff to discuss fully funding the Sea Grant program in FY 2019.  The Consortium for Ocean Leadership will hold its annual Public Policy Forum on Wednesday.  The theme for this day long policy forum is partnership building.  More information on the COL Public Policy forum can be found here.

A Periodic Federal Science Update

Overview of the Administration's FY2019 Budget Request for
Selected Federal Agencies' Science and Engineering

Prepared by Joel Widder and Meg Thompson
Federal Science Partners LLC
February 14, 2018

On February 12, the administration released its FY2019 Budget Request.  The President's budget features significant increases in DOD and other defense programs, a plan for a $1.5 trillion public-private multi-year infrastructure initiative with a proposed $200 billion in Federal funding, and, once again, dramatic reductions in specific non-defense programs (such as NIH, NSF, NOAA, and EPA).  

OMB Budget Adjustments Due to Bipartisan Budget Agreement for FY2018 and FY2019 -- As OMB finalized the FY 2019 Budget, the Congress reached a bipartisan agreement to significantly raise the defense and non-defense discretionary spending caps in FY2018 and FY2019, and the President has signed these new caps into law. In light of the BBA, the administration also transmitted an "Addendum to the President's FY2019 Budget to Account for the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018."  

"As reflected in the FY2019 Budget, the Administration strongly supports the overall defense spending levels included in the bipartisan cap deal. However, given the current fiscal situation, the Administration is not proposing a Budget at the new non-defense caps. The Administration does not believe these non-defense spending levels comport with its vision for the proper role and size of the Federal Government. However, we believe it is prudent to lay out the Administration's roadmap for how to account for these higher non-defense spending levels in a responsible manner. This addendum includes additional funding for a limited set of Administration priorities…"

The administration requests total defense discretionary spending of $716 billion, the same as the newly raised defense cap.  The defense budget is expected to track with the National Defense Strategy which emphasizes strategic competition with China and Russia means which calls for investing in advanced capabilities, rather than solely increasing the size of the force. Similarly, the strategy's language on force employment suggests a recalibration in favor of preserving readiness at the expense of some presence activities that are not focused on improving the military's ability to deter or respond to conflict.

For non-defense spending, the administration requests $540 billion, the addendum adds $75 billion to the FY2019 Budget, but this is still $57 billion below the newly raised non-defense cap agreed to last week that allows non-defense spending of $605 billion. The request for non-defense programs brings total non-defense spending to about the FY2017 level. 

The President's budget also contains workforce reduction plans for many agencies.  These plans rely on hiring freezes, buyouts, and provisions making it easier for agencies to release or terminate the employment of Federal employees.

Similar to the FY2018 request a large number of non-defense discretionary programs are proposed for elimination including:  Sea Grant and other ocean and coastal grant programs, and the NOAA Office of Education, a reduction of some $273 million; the Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (a reduction of $305 million); the USAID Global Climate Change Initiative; and five Earth Science Missions at NASA including Radiation Budget Instrument (RBI), Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud; ocean Ecosystem (PACE), Orbiting Carbon Observatory-3 (OCO-3), Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) Earth-viewing instruments, and Climate Absolute Radiance and Refractivity Observatory (CLARREO) Pathfinder (a savings of $133 million).  

Agencies slated for closure in the proposed budget include the Corporation for National and Community Service, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Institute of Museum and Library Services, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.  The FY2019 Budget moves the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to within the National Institutes of Health, but reduces the funds currently supporting AHRQ.  With the new spending caps in place for FY2019 and this being an election year, Congress can be expected to oppose many of these reductions.

For the National Science Foundation (NSF), the administration's addendum would provide an additional $2.204 billion to NSF, bringing the FY2019 NSF request to a total of $7.472 billion, the same as the FY 2017 appropriated amount. The Administration's budget shows that without the addendum, it would have requested a reduction of 30% below the FY2017 level.  With the addendum, Research and Related Activities increases by 2%, while NSF Education and Human Resources would remain at the FY2017 level.  Funding for the Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction account would decline by 56% or $120 million.  

The increase for the Research & Related Activities account will allow NSF to invest in priority areas centered on accelerating focused, cross-disciplinary efforts around two of the NSF Big Ideas - The Future of Work at the Human-Technology Frontier, and Harnessing the Data Revolution.  The requested increase would also support beginning construction on the Antarctic Infrastructure Modernization for Science project. The reduction for the Major Research Equipment & Facilities Construction account is largely due to the support for two new Regional Class Research Vessels. 

For the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Administration is requesting $4.6 billion NOAA which is $1.1 billion or 19% below the FY 2017 level.  NOAA is not included as one of the "add backs" in the addendum.  Notable terminations in the NOAA budget include: Sea Grant, Coastal Zone Management Grants and Regional Coastal Resilience Grants, the National Estuarine Research Reserve Systems, NOAA Education programs, arctic research, the Prescott grant program, the reef fish stock assessment program, the Big Earth Data project, and the Research Transition Acceleration Program.  Those programs proposed for substantial reductions include: elimination of the climate competitive research activity (this was a $60 million program in FY 2017); the ocean exploration program, reduction in the IOOS program of $11 million; reduction in the tsunami warning system ($11 million); reduction in numerical weather prediction models and the national water model; reduce the ocean acidification research activity by $2.4 million; regional climate centers would be reduced by $2.4 million; and reduce the marine debris program by nearly $500,000.

Areas or programs where NOAA is proposing modest increases despite an overall bottom line that declines by nearly 20% include: restore core capabilities at the National Weather Service; support increased costs for NOAA aircraft facility; improve disaster preparedness; strengthening NOAA's future satellite capabilities; maintenance of core geospatial and oceanographic data and products; and facilitate commercial space marketplace.

With respect to aquaculture, a priority area for the Department of Commerce and NOAA, support for NOAA's Office of Aquaculture is proposed to be $9.3 million, an amount equal to the FY 2017 level.  The aquaculture research component within Sea Grant (approximately $9 million in FY 2017) is eliminated as part of the Administration's proposal to terminate the Sea Grant program.  Also eliminated via the Sea Grant proposal would be the Knauss Fellowship program and other Sea Grant education activities.

NOAA Research (Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research - OAR) would decline in this budget proposal to a level of $321.7 million which is about 37% below the comparable FY 2017 level.  In addition to the proposed termination of Sea Grant and other ocean and coastal grant programs, other notable reductions include:

"    $60 million reduction in various climate research activities;
"    $14 million reduction for weather related cooperative institutes and laboratories;
"    $9 million to eliminate the joint technology transfer initiative;
"    $16 million reduction to ocean exploration;
"    $2.4 million reduction to ocean acidification - dropping from $10.4 million in FY 2017 to $8 million in FY 2019.

The National Ocean Service (NOS), in the FY 2019 budget request would decline by nearly 30% from the FY 2017 level. In the Navigation, Observations, and Positioning program support would decline by $7 million via the elimination of a single-year grant to the joint ocean and coastal mapping center in Mississippi and the elimination of geospatial modeling grants. The IOOS Regional Observations program would decline by about 30% or $11 million to a level of $19.4 million.  The $10 million competitive research program in Coastal Science and Assessment would be eliminated.  The Coastal Science, Assessment, Response and Restoration would increase relative to FY 2017 by $773,00 to a level of $74 million.  Coastal Zone Management Grants and the National Estuarine Research Reserve System programs would be terminated.  Sanctuaries and Marine Protected Areas would be funded at $49.7 million which is about $1 million below the FY 2017 level.

The National Marine Fisheries Services (NMFS) would decline to $837.3 million which is about 15% below the FY 2017 level.  Under this proposal NMFS would terminate the Prescott Marine Mammal Stranding program, Interjurisdictional Fisheries Grants, Cooperative Enforcement Program with coastal states and territories to enforce marine conservation law; and reef fish stock assessments in the Gulf of Mexico. NOAA's Enforcement Program is proposed to decline by $18 million or 26% below the FY 2017 level.  Such a reduction could adversely impact NOAA's efforts to detect and deter Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing and enforce restrictions on imports of illegally-harvested and improperly-documented seafood.

The National Weather Service is requesting $1.1 billion which is virtually equal to the FY 2017 level.  Within this budget, NWS would increase its support for the restoration of core capabilities; increase by $5 million its Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System (AWIPS) updates; and enhance the resilience and reliability of integrated dissemination program applications.  Areas slated for reduction include $15.5 million to reduce surface and marine observations by reducing the National Mesonet Program; reduce the tsunami warning program by $11 million; reduce the investment in the National Water Model; reduce the NWS information technology workforce by $10 million through consolidation of IT support services; reduce the NWS workforce by nearly 250 positions by implementing the Operations and Workforce Analysis plan; save $2 million by terminating aviation science research to operations efforts; save $1.2 million via the consolidation of the Climate Prediction Center and Weather Prediction Center; reduce investment in numerical weather prediction modeling by $5 million; terminate NWS support for the COASTAL Act which among other things produces detailed post-storm assessments in the aftermath of severe storms; reduce by $3 million support for the National Water Model; 

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) budget request for FY2019 is $19.9 billion, an increase of about 1.2% over the FY2017 level; these numbers include the addendum that added $300 million to NASA's request.  NASA's Science Account would be funded at $5.9 billion which is 2.3% over the FY2017 level. The addendum specifies that the additional $300 million in the Science account would support lunar science research and technology development of future power systems for solar system exploration.  Within the funding for the Science Account, Earth Science would decline to $1.784 billion which is 7% below the FY2017 level.  Earth Science would see the cancellation of five Earth Science Missions at NASA including Radiation Budget Instrument (RBI), Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud; ocean Ecosystem (PACE), Orbiting Carbon Observatory-3 (OCO-3), Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) Earth-viewing instruments, and Climate Absolute Radiance and Refractivity Observatory (CLARREO) Pathfinder.  

The Department of Defense (DOD)-- The FY 2019 Budget Request for DOD's Base Budget is $647 and an additional $69 billion for the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account for a total budget of $716 billion (Base +OCO).  Total DOD Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation level is $92.4 billion.  Of this amount, $18.6 billion is slated for the Navy which represents an increase of 8.3% over the FY 2017 level.  

Within the Navy, basic research would grow to $597 million, an increase of 6%.  Within the 6.1 program, Defense Research Sciences would increase to $459 million which is an increase of 8.5%.  At the same time, University Research Initiatives would decline by almost 2% (down to $119.4 million).  Navy applied research (6.2) and Navy advanced technology development (6.3) would each decline by 9%.

DARPA would grow by nearly 17% to $3.4 billion.  Basic research within DARPA is proposed to increase to $470 million which is a 12% increase.  DARPA applied research (6.2) grows by 15% and DARPA advanced technology development (6.3) increases by 18%.

For the National Institutes of Health, the Budget requests a total of approximately $34.8 billion, plus supplemental funding to help address the opioid epidemic.  This includes the additional $9 billion included in the addendum. However, the administration's proposal would consolidate the activities of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) into a National Institute for Research on Safety and Quality (NIRSQ) under the auspices of NIH. Similarly, programs currently administered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), such as the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) are also shifted into the NIH portfolio. Thus, while the overall NIH budget would appear to increase, many programs across the Institutes and Centers could be adversely impacted by those consolidations. 

At the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Categorical grants to help fund State environmental program offices and activities for such activities as the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and Safe Drinking Water Act. The administration proposes to reduce many of these grants and eliminate others declining by $469 million from the FY2017 level of $1 billion.  In the addendum, the administration adds $724 million to EPA:  an additional $327 million to the Hazardous Substance Superfund account largely for the Superfund Remedial program, and an additional $397 million to the State and Tribal Assistance Grants account for the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds (SRF). The Administration is proposing to terminate most the Geographic Programs such as the Gulf of Mexico, Lake Champlain, Puget Sound programs.  For the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding would drop from $300 million to $30 million.  The National Estuary program would be reduced to zero from its FY 2017 level of $27 million.  Beach and fish programs would also be zeroed out.  Water Quality Research Projects, worth a total of $12.6 million that were added in by the Congress in FY 2017 would be terminated.  Overall R&D at EPA would decline by 37% under this budget proposal.

For the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the Administration is requesting $860 million, $223 million or 25% below the FY 2017 level.  The 2019 budget provides $92.3 million for Core Science Systems. This is $23 million below the FY 2017 level.  The budget includes $50.9 million for the National Geospatial Program, a reduction of $16 million.  Within that $16 million reduction is a proposed reduction of $7.3 million for 3DEP.  The National Cooperative Geological Mapping Program would be funded at $23 million, a reduction of $2 million from the FY 2017 level. The request provides for continued collection of high-resolution elevation (3DEP) and hydrography data for the Nation, including modernizing maps for Alaska and complete national lidar coverage by 2033. The budget also includes $22.4 million for leveraged geologic mapping activities in coordination with States, which are important for infrastructure, resource development, and mitigation of hazards. Support for Earthquake Hazards would decline by nearly $13 million below the FY 2017 level. 

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is slated to receive $129 million in appropriations (an increase of $17 million) plus $50 million in offsetting collections from offshore rental receipts and other cost recoveries.  In 2019, BOEM will continue to advance renewable energy through a leasing program and streamlining of its permitting and National Environmental Policy Act processes. The BOEM continues to support renewable energy development spurred by the renewable energy goals of coastal States.

Department of State's Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs (OES) program would be funded at a level of $65.9 million, an amount similar to FY 2017.  Funds will be used to support countries to phase out ozone depleting substances under the Montreal Protocol to protect U.S. citizens from skin cancer and cataracts and support global market-leading U.S. companies by promoting global adoption of advanced air conditioning and refrigeration technology. Funds will also be used to meet the annual commitment to Pacific Island partners, which secures access for U.S. vessels to lucrative fishing grounds thus supporting economic opportunities for Americans.
 

A Periodic Federal Science Update

Congress Passes CR Until March 23 While House and Senate Agree on Raising Defense and Non-Defense Spending Caps for FY 2018 and FY 2019 – Facing a deadline of February 8, early this morning the Congress passed and sent to the President the fifth continuing resolution (CR) to keep the Federal Government operating until March 23.  At the same time, Congressional negotiators reached an agreement to increase the statutory spending caps for both Defense and Non-defense programs for FY 2018 and FY 2019.  The agreement would raise the total level of spending by about $300 billion over two years.

Under the spending cap agreement, the FY 2018 statutory Defense cap would be raised by $80 billion or 15%.  The Non-defense cap by $63 billion or 12%. For comparison purposes, the Administration’s FY 2018 budget request released last May proposed to increase Defense by $54 billion or 10% and reduce Non-defense by $54 billion or 10%.  The agreement also includes new spending caps for FY 2019 with an increase of $85 billion for Defense programs and $68 billion for Non-defense spending programs over the current respective spending caps in the Budget Control Act for FY 2019.

The budget agreement includes funding for four more years for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), bringing the previous six-year extension to a full decade. The agreement recommends $2 billion (over two years) for NIH research, and $20 billion for infrastructure spending that will go toward "existing" projects for water and energy infrastructure as well as expanding broadband to rural regions and surface transportation. In addition, the budget agreement recommends:  $6 billion over two years for combating the opioid epidemic and mental health; $5.8 billion for the Child Care Development Block Grant Act; $4 billion to rebuild and improve VA Hospitals and Clinics; and $4 billion for programs that aid college affordability. Specific funding levels for these and other programs will be determined by the House and Senate Appropriations Committees as they work to develop a yearlong appropriations bill for FY 2018 ostensibly by March 23.

The agreement also includes $89.3 billion emergency funding in response to recent natural disasters.  Highlights of the supplemental appropriations package include:

·      $23.5 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency Disaster Relief Fund, the primary funding source for immediate disaster response. The funding will support response and recovery efforts, including assistance to state, territory, possession, and local governments, to cover total estimated needs for Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, and FY2018 estimated needs for Hurricane Maria 

·      $17.4 billion for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, largely targeted for projects to reduce the risk of future damages from flood and storm events.

·      $22 million for the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) to repair damages to 14 ARS-owned facilities and equipment resulting from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.

·      $18 million for assessments and removal of marine debris from areas affected by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.

·      $40 million for mapping and charting affected coastlines and navigation channels that are critical for transportation and commerce.

·      $42.1 million to repair or replace federal facilities and observing assets damaged by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, which are necessary for forecasting and responding to future hurricanes and storm events.

·      $100 million for improving weather forecasting capabilities and data collection efforts to better protect lives and property in the wake of future hurricanes.

·      $200 million for fishery disasters causing severe economic harm in coastal communities following Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, as well as disasters declared in 2017.

·      $81 million to repair facilities damaged at NASA’s Kennedy and Johnson Space Centers.

·      $16 million to repair damaged federally-owned radio telescope facilities in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

·      $42.2 million for U.S. Geological Survey to repair and replace damaged stream gages and seismic monitors as well as conduct assessments and collect mapping data in order to aid in the recovery and rebuilding efforts.

·      $200 million for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for health recovery response, including: surveillance and abatement of vector-borne, food-borne, water-borne, and other infectious diseases that arise as the result of hurricanes.

·      $50 million for National Institutes of Health to provide funding to rebuild research efforts and physical infrastructure.

·      $100 million for institutions of higher education, and students at those institutions, in areas affected by the hurricanes and wildfires.

·      $1.374 billion for the FHWA Emergency Relief program to make repairs for highways damaged by disasters.  Removes the annual cap on emergency relief funding for territories, consistent with all states. Puerto Rico is also provided 100 percent federal cost share for damages resulting from Hurricanes Irma, and Maria for FY 2018-2019.

Assuming the CR and these new spending caps are signed into law, appropriators will use these new levels to complete their negotiations on, and enact into law, a yearlong omnibus FY 2018 appropriations bill by the time the new CR expires on March 23.  

On February 8, the Administration issued its Statement of Administration Position (SAP) on the spending agreement.  Overall, the White House supports the agreement, particularly the increased spending for Defense programs.  However, on Non-defense programs the SAP says,

…it is critical that the Congress work to decrease non-defense spending…to reduce America’s growing national debt. The Bipartisan Budget Act provides non- defense discretionary spending levels higher than the Administration deems necessary. Additionally, although the Bipartisan Budget Act does include some spending reductions, the Administration has proposed hundreds of billions of dollars in additional spending reductions that the Congress should also enact without delay in order to improve our fiscal state...

The President’s FY 2019 Budget Request is scheduled to be released next week on February 12.  Most observers expect, and the SAP reinforces this expectation, that despite the increase in the new spending caps for FY 2019, the White House budget request for FY 2019 Non-defense programs (such as research, education, climate programs, National Parks, health centers, etc.) will be at least as disappointing, if not more so, than it was for the FY 2018 request.  

Congress will have the new higher spending limits for FY 2019 to use when reviewing and ultimately acting on the President’s Budget request for FY 2019.

A Periodic Federal Science Update

Federal Government Funded Until February 8 – The Federal Government is operating under the authority of a fourth limited stop-gap funding resolution – a Continuing Resolution (CR) – that runs until February 8.  House and Senate negotiators are continuing discussions regarding either another extension of the CR and/or new spending limits for defense and non-defense spending for FY18 and FY19.  These new spending limits are important pre-requisites for completing the pending FY18 appropriations bills.  Other issues impacting the negotiations on an extension of the current CR include immigration and border security issues. 

NIH Asking for Research Ideas for Use of Data Collected by All of Us Research Program – The NIH All of Us Research Program is working to build one of the largest, most diverse datasets of its kind for health research, with one million or more volunteers nationwide, who will sign up to share their information over time. Researchers will be able to access participants’ de-identified information for a variety of studies to learn more about the biological, behavioral, and environmental factors that influence health and disease. Their findings may lead to more individualized health care approaches in the future.  NIH is requesting the science community submit research ideas that would make use of the data being collected.  The information provided will be used at an All of Us Research Priorities Workshop on March 21–23, 2018, to identify key research priorities and requirements (such as data types and methods) for future versions of the All of Us protocol. The deadline for submitting a use case for the All of Us Research Priorities Workshop is February 23, 2018.  Suggestions for research topics should be submitted here.

Dr. James Reilly Nominated to be Director of the United States Geological Survey, Department of the Interior -- Dr. Reilly currently serves United States and allied militaries as a subject matter expert on space operations, and he is a technical advisor supporting the National Security Space Institute of the U.S. Air Force. Previously, Dr. Reilly held management positions in academia, as well as at TAEUS Corp., and PhotoStencil, Corp. in Colorado Springs. During his 13-year career at NASA, he flew 3 spaceflight missions conducting 5 spacewalks for a total of over 856 hours in space. Prior to NASA, he was chief geologist at Enserch Exploration, Inc., working projects around the world including in Antarctica and on the continental slope of the Gulf of Mexico. He earned his B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in geosciences from the University of Texas at Dallas.  Dr. Reilly’s nomination will be considered by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Hearing on Natural Hazards -- Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) chaired a full committee hearing on January 31 to discuss natural hazards, including volcanoes, earthquakes, landslides, tsunamis and avalanches, and the effectiveness of early warning monitoring systems to minimize risks and protect local communities. The committee received testimony from experts from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), U.S. Forest Service, the Mayor of Kodiak, Alaska, Washington State Geological Survey, the Alaska Earthquake Center, and Colorado Geological Survey. The accuracy and timeliness of early warning alerts for natural hazard events is critically important for local communities. Dr. David Applegate, USGS associate director of natural hazards, highlighted the capabilities of an ongoing project to improve early warning earthquake monitoring systems, particularly on the West Coast. When the magnitude 7.9 earthquake struck off the coast of Alaska last week, many monitoring systems worked well and alerts were issued quickly, but Dr. Mike West from the Alaska Earthquake Center noted that there were also a number of failures, some of which were not caused by the earthquake. Dr. West concluded his testimony by advocating for redundancies to be built into hazards preparedness plans, in order to avoid lapses in monitoring. 

Senator Murkowski is chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. She has introduced or cosponsored several bipartisan hazards bills, including the National Volcano Early Warning and Monitoring System Act and the National Landslide Preparedness Act, in the 115th Congress. Both bills are included in her broad Energy and Natural Resources Act, which currently awaits consideration on the Senate floor. Senator Murkowski is also the lead cosponsor of S. 1768, Senator Dianne Feinstein’s, (D-CA), National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program Reauthorization Act. An archived video of yesterday’s hearing is available on the committee’s website.

Senate Commerce Committee Holds Hearing on America COMPETES Legislation – On January 30, the Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing to review the implementation of the America Innovation and Competitiveness Act (AICA).  The witnesses were Dr. France Cordova, Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF); and Dr. Walter Copan, director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).  The hearing was chaired by Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) who, along with Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) worked together to enact AICA into law.  Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), Ranking Minority Member of the full committee, used his opening statement to express his concerns about how our international competitors – such as China – are beginning to challenge the U.S. leadership in science and technology.  The Committee and the panelists discussed specific programs and research projects that have resulted in either significant scientific breakthroughs, applications that have spurred economic development, advancements in health care and related technologies, and identified the need to attract more women and minorities into science and engineering.

Senate Commerce Committee Holds Hearing on Aquaculture – On January 30, Chairman John Thune (R-SD) convened a full committee hearing entitled, “Growing the Future: Opportunities to Support Domestic Seafood Through Aquaculture.”  Chairman Thune opened the hearing by noting the promise of domestic aquaculture and seafood production but also noted the “confusing regulatory maze” that confronts those in the U.S. seeking to enter or expand their activities in domestic aquaculture. “Permits for an aquaculture farm may be required from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Coast Guard, the Department of Agriculture, and the Food and Drug Administration.  This overlapping web of federal jurisdiction and lengthy, sometimes unending permitting process can take ten years or more – scaring many investors away.  Too often, this results in entrepreneurs taking their skills, talents, and ideas overseas to a more business-friendly environment.”

Witnesses for this hearing included: Mr. Donald Kent, President and CEO of Hubbs SeaWorld Research Institute; Dr. Kelly Lucas, Director, Thad Cochran Marine Aquaculture Center; Mr. Mark Luecke, Managing Director and CEO of Prairie AquaTech; and Mr. Barton Seaver, Director for Sustainable Seafood and Health Initiative Center for Health and the Global Environment.  To view an archived version of this hearing as well as copies of the witnesses’ testimony, please click here.   Most of the discussion focused on the benefits of aquaculture as way to provide healthy seafood, enhance coastal economic resiliency, and other benefits.  They also mentioned the important role Sea Grant plays in assisting local communities with these matters.  But witnesses and Members also talked about the complex, and often times uncertain, process of obtaining federal permits and working through other regulatory processes that make it difficult to operate economically viable operations.  Witnesses also discussed the need for sound environmental practices for domestic aquaculture operations and taking advantage of best practices and new technologies.  Witnesses also talked about the importance of research, public private partnerships, education, and outreach for both producers and consumers.

House Science Committee Calls for GAO Report on Sexual Harassment in the Scientific Community – On January 18, Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) and Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) sent a joint bipartisan letter to the General Accountability Office (GAO) to request a report on sexual harassment by federally funded researchers, specifically looking at NIH, NSF, USDA, DOE and NASA. In the letter, Reps. Smith and Johnson specifically ask for information on Title IX compliance programs at federal grant-making agencies and agency policies and processes related to sexual harassment that may fall outside of Title IX requirements. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 put a system in place designed to ensure that institutions receiving federal funding provide all students, regardless of sex, equal access to educational programs and activities.

A Periodic Federal Science Update

Federal Government Reopens While FY 2019 Budget is Delayed Until February 12th. – On Monday, January 22, after a weekend shutdown of the Federal Government, Congress passed, and the President signed into law another Continuing Resolution that keeps federal programs and operations going until February 8, 2018 and extends the Children Health Insurance Program for six years.  An agreement was reached in the Senate after Leader McConnell made a commitment on the Senate floor to take up an immigration bill that would include a fix for the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals program.  The new CR would need to be addressed the week before the President’s FY 2019 budget request which has been re-scheduled for release on February 12.  The President is scheduled to give his first State of the Union Address on January 30.

NOAA and NASA Nominees Approved by Senate Commerce Committee – on January 18 the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee re-approved, along party lines, the nomination of Mr. Barry Myers to be the next NOAA Administrator and Rep. James Bridenstine to be the next NASA Administrator.  Both of these nominations were approved during the first session of this Congress (2017) but since their nominations were not acted upon by the full Senate by the end of the session, they needed to be re-submitted to the Committee for their approval.  Floor action on these nominees has not yet been announced.

Aquaculture Hearing Scheduled for January 30 before the Senate Commerce Committee – The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee will hold a hearing entitled, Growing the Future: Opportunities to Support Domestic Seafood Through Aquaculture.  The hearing will examine the current state of aquaculture in the United States, future opportunities for offshore, coastal, and inland communities, and the potential impact on the economy.  

Witnesses will includeDr. Kelly Lucas, Director of the Marine Aquaculture Center, University of Southern Mississippi; Mr. Mark Luecke, Managing Director and CEO, Prairie AquaTech: Mr. Donald Kent, President and CEO, Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute; and Mr. Barton Seaver, Chef and Author.  The hearing will take place in 253 Russell Senate Office Building with witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing available here.

NOAA Coastal Resilience Grants Program Funding Opportunity – On January 24, NOAA announced the FY 2018 NOAA Coastal Resilience Grants Program. The principal objective of the program is to implement projects that build resilience of U.S. coastal communities and ecosystems. In FY 2018, this solicitation is seeking coastal habitat restoration projects that build resilience by conserving and restoring sustainable ecosystem processes and functions and reducing the vulnerability of coastal communities and infrastructure from the impacts of extreme weather events, climate hazards, and changing ocean conditions. This program supports activities that restore or create natural infrastructure and natural landscape features to provide valuable ecosystem functions and services, such as habitat for fish, improved water quality and quantity, flood reduction, and erosion protection. Approximately $10 million will be available to support proposals under this solicitation. A copy of the solicitation is available here.

Department of Energy to Host 2018 ARPA-E Summit -- The Department of Energy’s (DOE) Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) will host its ninth annual Energy Innovation Summit from March 13-15, 2018. The Summit draws thousands of participants from across the United States and internationally to convene a forum on the future of energy innovation. The Summit encourages leaders from industry, government, and academia to build partnerships that shape the direction of public-private cooperation in energy technology.

The Summit will include the Technology Showcase which features more than 275 innovative technologies from across all energy sectors, including prototypes and commercial-ready products—many on public display for the first time. In addition, it will also feature panel discussions and mainstage addresses from leading experts on a range of technology issues affecting energy innovation.  The Summit will be held at the Gaylord National Convention Center, National Harbor, Maryland.  For more information and to register for the ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit, please visit here.

ARPA-E Seeks New Concept Papers -- Last month, ARPA-E announced up to $100 million in funding for new projects as part of the agency's latest OPEN funding opportunity. OPEN will support America’s top innovators through dozens of early-stage research and development projects as they build technologies to transform the nation’s energy system.  ARPA-E has issued previous OPEN solicitations in 2009, 2012, and 2015. The projects selected under OPEN in 2018 will pursue novel approaches to energy innovation across the full spectrum of energy applications. The agency collaborates across the department’s extensive research enterprise, providing support that complements existing DOE-wide initiatives. The deadline to submit a concept paper is February 12, 2018 at 5:00 p.m. E.T.  For additional information on the OPEN funding opportunity, please visit here.

NSF Seeks Proposals to Operate Regional Class Research Vessels -- Planning for construction of new RCRVs for the U.S. Academic Research Fleet (ARF) has been ongoing at the National Science Foundation for more than a decade.  In early 2012 a Solicitation (NSF-12-558) was issued for the design and construction of up to three RCRVs.  That solicitation further indicated that selection of operating institutions for any additional vessels would be conducted by means of a separate competition that would be completed prior to delivery of the first RCRV. This solicitation seeks to select qualified institutions to operate the additional RCRV Class vessels. These institutions shall either have current membership in the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System (UNOLS) or be capable of becoming UNOLS members prior to taking over responsibility for full vessel operations. Separate proposals are required for each vessel. A copy of the solicitation can be found here.

DARPA Announces PREEMPT Funding Opportunity -- DARPA is soliciting innovative proposals to develop novel and scalable approaches to preempt viral spillover and transmission from animals and/or vectors into humans.  The program is also seeking to support proposals that develop and validate new scalable technologies to target potential human-capable viral pathogens in wild reservoirs and/or mosquito vectors to prevent transmission to humans. This Broad Agency Announcement for PREventing EMerging Pathogenic Threats (PREEMPT) is available here.

NOAA Funding Opportunity: Joint Technology Transfer Initiative -- Through the Joint Technology Transfer Initiative (JTTI) Program, NOAA Research’s Office of Weather and Air Quality (OWAQ) is soliciting proposals to conduct research and development activities related to advancing data assimilation of new observations and data assimilation techniques for convective-scale weather prediction, improving water prediction capabilities through enhancements to National Water Model, improving daily to subseasonal scale prediction of Arctic sea ice, and communicating forecast uncertainty.  Approximately $2 million is available for grant support.  A copy of the solicitation can be found here.

NSF Funding Opportunity for Antarctic Research -- The U.S. Antarctic Program (USAP) supports scientific research in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean.  NSF’s Office of Polar Programs (OPP) provides operational research support for these projects. OPP’s Antarctic Sciences Section (ANT) supports research to 1) expand fundamental knowledge of the Antarctic region, 2) improve understanding of interactions between the Antarctic region and global Earth systems, and 3) utilize unique characteristics of the Antarctic continent as an observing platform. Antarctic fieldwork is supported for research that can only be performed, or is best performed, in Antarctica. ANT encourages research, using existing samples, data, and models, that does not require fieldwork. ANT also encourages research that crosses and combines, disciplinary perspectives and approaches.  More information on this program can be found here.

A Periodic Federal Science Update

Shutdown Begins – Tonight, facing a January 19 deadline to either extend funding for Federal agencies or shutdown the government, the Senate failed to pass the stop-gap funding resolution that would have extended government funding until February 16.  Senate Democrats in sufficient numbers, opposed the bill because it lacked provisions to deal with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) issue.  With the defeat of this legislation on the eve of the anniversary of President’s first year in office, the Federal Government has begun the process to shut down and suspend all non-essential operations.  Essential operations will continue such as those associated with national security, air traffic control, Medicare and social security payments.  But most other activities, such as the National Institutes of Health, the Center for Disease Control, the National Science Foundation, the national parks, visa and passport processing, the National Weather Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Gallery of Art, and most other non-defense agencies and programs will be put on hiatus until the Congress and the White House can reach an agreement on funding the Federal Government along with other issues such as DACA, childrens’ health insurance, spending caps for defense and nondefense programs, disaster relief, etc.

NSF Releases Latest Science and Engineering Indicators Report – According to the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Science and Engineering Indicators 2018 released this week, the United States is the global leader in science and technology (S&T). However, the U.S. global share of S&T activities is declining as other nations -- especially China -- continue to rise.

The 2018 report shows the U.S. invests the most in research and development (R&D), attracts the most venture capital, awards the most advanced degrees, provides the most business, financial and information services, and is the largest producer in high-technology manufacturing sectors. The complete report, which covers data on the domestic and global science and engineering landscape, is available online.

Dr. Maria Zuber, NSB Chair and Vice President for Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said, “This year's report shows a trend that the U.S. still leads by many S&T measures, but that our lead is decreasing in certain areas that are important to our country," said. That trend raises concerns about impacts on our economy and workforce, and has implications for our national security.”

According to Science and Engineering Indicators 2018, China's growth in S&E continues at an exceptional pace.  R&D expenditures reflect a nation's commitment to expanding capabilities in S&T, which in turn drive innovation. While the U.S. led the world in R&D expenditures at $496 billion (26 percent share of the global total), China was a decisive second at 21 percent ($408 billion). China has grown its R&D spending rapidly since 2000, at an average of 18 percent annually. Its focus is geared primarily toward development rather than basic or applied research. During the same time frame, U.S. R&D spending grew by only 4 percent. Although emerging economies start at a lower base and therefore tend to grow much more rapidly, China's growth rate is exceptional.

Venture capital investment, which supports the commercialization of emerging technologies, totaled more than $130 billion globally in 2016. While the U.S. attracted the most investment (nearly $70 billion), accounting for slightly more than half of the global share, 26 percent of total venture capital funds went to China. Venture capital in China rose from approximately $3 billion in 2013 to $34 billion in 2016, climbing from 5 percent to 27 percent of the global share, the fastest increase of any economy.

Knowledge and technology-intensive industries -- in which S&T advances are key inputs -- are a major part of the global economy, comprising nearly one-third of world gross domestic product (GDP). America leads in providing business, financial and information services, accounting for 31 percent of the global share, followed by the European Union (EU) at 21 percent. China is the third largest producer of these services (17 percent global share) and continues to grow at a far faster rate (19 percent annual growth) than the U.S. and other developed countries. The U.S. is the largest producer of high-technology manufacturing (31 percent global share). This includes production of aircraft and spacecraft, semiconductors, computers, pharmaceuticals, and measuring and control instruments. China is second at 24 percent, more than doubling its share over the last decade.

Higher education provides the advanced work skills needed in an increasingly knowledge-intensive global economy. According to the most recent estimates, the U.S. awarded the largest number of S&E doctoral degrees (40,000) of any country, followed by China (34,000), Russia (19,000), Germany (15,000), the United Kingdom (14,000) and India (13,000). In contrast, the U.S. lags in bachelor's level degrees. India earned 25 percent of the more than 7.5 million awarded S&E bachelor's level degrees in 2014, followed closely by China (22 percent), the EU (12 percent) and the U.S. (10 percent). Nearly half of all degrees awarded in China are in S&E fields. Since 2000, the number of S&E bachelor's degrees awarded in China has gone up by 300 percent.

Over the past twenty years, students have become more mobile and countries increasingly compete for them as potential recruits for the S&E workforce. International student numbers in the U.S. dropped between the fall of 2016 and the fall of 2017, with the largest declines seen at the graduate level in computer science (13 percent decline) and engineering (8 percent decline). International students account for over 57 percent of graduate enrollments in computer sciences and engineering in the U.S. These students are a critical component of the U.S. workforce in these high demand fields. Seventy-nine percent of foreign doctoral graduate students choose to stay and work in the U.S. upon completion of their degree.

The business sector is by far the largest performer of R&D in the U.S., accounting for 72 percent of the $495 billion total in 2015. For several years, the annual rise in business R&D performance has accounted for most of the growth in overall U.S. R&D. Of the three main types of R&D -- basic research, applied research and experimental development -- businesses lead in both applied research (58 percent of $97 billion total) and experimental development (88 percent of $314 billion total). Higher education institutions continue to perform the largest share of U.S. basic research (49 percent of $83 billion total).  The business sector also leads in R&D investment, providing 67 percent ($333 billion) of the national total in 2015. In contrast, the federal government -- which was once the primary funder of R&D (67 percent in 1964) -- reached a historic low in 2015, funding 24 percent of the U.S. total. This decline has primarily been due to the faster growth in R&D investment by the business sector. In addition, federally funded R&D has been on a declining trend since 2011 (from $127 billion in 2011 to $120 billion in 2015).

The federal government remains the largest funder of basic research ($36.9 billion, 44 percent of total share), and is the primary driver of both innovative research and the training of the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workforce. The business sector accounted for $22.7 billion (27 percent of total share) in 2015.

Novim Report Analyzes Impact of Budget Reductions Proposed for Federal Environmental and Climate Research Programs -- The administration’s FY 2018 budget contains $7.8 billion for federally funded CE R&D–a roughly $2 billion (21 percent) drop between FY 2017 and 2018–with significant reductions to most of the thirteen Federal agencies in the climate and environment portfolio. According to a new report released this week by Novim, if the proposed cuts become law, they will have profound impacts on U.S. capabilities, including dismantling programs that provide the scientific basis for policies that protect Americans’ health, economic prosperity, and safety; breaking the chain of longstanding observational and research infrastructure needed for climate and environment modeling; constraining the nation’s ability to detect and understand critical climate and environmental trends and influences on natural resources; curbing the training of the next generation of scientists, resource managers, and decision-makers who translate basic science into climate and environmental policies and approaches; degrading the U.S. Global Change Research program; and restricting the nation’s ability to meet legal and international climate and environment commitments. The report includes a summary of the proposed FY 2018 reductions and a detailed agency-by-agency analysis.  The full report, a fact sheet, and a press release can be downloaded here.

DOD Releases Funding Announcement for New Manufacturing Engineering Education Program (MEEP) -- The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2017 established the “Manufacturing Engineering Education Program,” (MEEP) (10 U.S.C. § 2196) which authorizes the Department of Defense to support industry-relevant, manufacturing-focused, engineering training at United States institutions of higher education, industry, nonprofit institutions, and consortia of such institutions or industry. DOD will administer this new program through the Office of Naval Research (ONR).  The purpose of this program is to establish new or to enhance existing programs (or collections of programs) to better position the current and next-generation manufacturing workforce to produce military systems and components that assure technological superiority for DOD. Interested parties should focus programs on manufacturing education to support one or more distinct manufacturing technologies; e.g. manufacturing of lightweight structures, systems and materials; robotics for manufacturing; manufacturing to exploit nanotechnology; manufacturing of components and systems for power generation, storage, or distribution; manufacturing of multi-functional electronics and/or optical devices; or other manufacturing technologies of regional or industrial sector of interest. Proposed efforts should develop and enhance curricula and programs to effectively develop skills sets needed for students to operate in multidisciplinary design and manufacturing environments, including those for which manufacturing schema are informed by computational tools for modeling and simulation. Students also should be prepared to work effectively in environments where multiple engineering disciplines are engaged during design, development and manufacturing, and where the roles of manufacturers and suppliers in businesses of various sizes, from start-ups to major systems integrators, are optimized.  ONR intends to award approximately three (3) awards for an estimated total value of $5,400,000, subject to the availability of funds. Each individual award will be up to a maximum of $600,000 per year for up to three (3) years.

NOAA Announces $3 Million in Great Lakes Restoration Funding -- NOAA is announcing the availability of up to $3 million in Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant funding for restoration projects in 2018. This federal funding opportunity (FFO) is intended for habitat restoration in the Great Lakes region, supporting healthy ecosystems and resilient coastal communities in Great Lakes states. Special focus for this FFO are locations beyond the Great Lakes Areas of Concern (AOCs) targeted in previous years. The closing date is March 12, 2018. In 2018, approximately $3 million may be available to institutions of higher education, non-profit organizations, commercial (for profit) organizations, and governments of U.S. territories, states, and local municipalities, as well as Native American tribal governments. The amount of funding available for this FFO is subject to FY2018 budget appropriations.  Priority will be given to projects that fulfill the following goals: Creating functional habitats for native fish species migration, reproduction, growth, and seasonal refuge, including improvements for fish passage, wetlands, and nearshore habitats; Restoring sites outside of AOCs including delisted AOCs and AOCs in recovery with all management actions complete; and Ensuring the long term protection of the restored site through partner-supported acquisition of land or a conservation easement at the restored site, or land with an ecological relationship to the restored site  (e.g. land in proximity or within the same watershed). Detailed description and requirements can be found at  http://www.grants.gov/, funding number NOAA-NMFS-HCPO-2018-2005487.

Secretary of Energy Appoints Chanette Armstrong as Director of DOE Office of Technology Transfer – On January 8, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry announced the appointment of Chanette Armstrong to head up the Department’s Office of Technology Transitions (OTT).  As the Director of the OTT, Ms. Armstrong’s responsibilities will extend across Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) program offices, its 17 national laboratories and its other research and production facilities across the country. She will also oversee DOE’s Energy Investor Center, the Technology Commercialization Fund, and the coordination of technology transfer activities and best practices across the DOE complex.  In addition to serving as the Director of the OTT, she will also serve as the U.S. Department of Energy Technology Transfer Coordinator, an advisor to the Energy Secretary Perry on technology transfer and commercialization activities. OTT was established in 2015 in order to expand the commercial impact of the Department of Energy’s research and development portfolio to advance the economic, energy, and national security interests of the nation. Ms. Armstrong is a registered patent attorney, holding a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Carnegie-Mellon University, an M.B.A. from Long Island University, and a J.D. from State University of New Jersey-Rutgers Law School. 

Statement by Leaders of the National Academies on the Political Review of Science Grants – On January 16 the Presidents of the National Academies issued the following public statement:

The highest standards of scientific integrity, transparency, and accountability are critical to maintaining public confidence in our nation’s research enterprise and in the wise use of the public investment in research.  The public expects policymakers and agencies to base those investments on independent advice and assessment from unbiased experts without political interference.  For these reasons, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine view any political review of scientific proposals as inappropriate, as it gives the appearance of political interference in science.  At the same time, we recognize the prerogative of federal agencies to align funding programs with their mission priorities in their calls for proposals and in their requests that reviewers assess the relevance of proposals to agency priorities as one of the criteria in proposal evaluation.

House Bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus Grows to 66 Members -- The bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus welcomed four new members to its growing membership: Congressman David Cicilline (RI-01), Congressman Mark Sanford (SC-01), Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty (CT-05), and Congressman Daniel Donovan (NY-11).  Co-Chaired by Congressman Ted Deutch (FL-22) and Congressman Carlos Curbelo (FL-26), the Caucus now has 66 members, split evenly between Democrats and Republicans, representing diverse districts from across the country.  The mission of the Climate Solutions Caucus is to educate members on economically-viable options to reduce climate risk and to explore bipartisan policy options that address the impacts, causes, and challenges of our changing climate. As determined by the Co-Chairs, the Caucus membership will consist of equal representation by Democrats and Republicans.  The full membership of the Climate Solutions Caucus can be accessed here.

A Periodic Federal Science Update

Congressional Hearing: China’s Pursuit of Emerging and Exponential Technologies – On January 9, the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities heard sobering testimony from a number of witnesses in which they described the technological threat China poses to the national security of this Nation.  Mr. William Carter, Deputy Director for the Technology Policy Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and others, presented a stark picture of the threat China poses in areas such as artificial intelligence, cyber, space-based capabilities and anti-satellite weapons, electronic warfare and quantum computing.  Mr. Carter said, in his prepared remarks:

Since the Cold War, U.S. national security has been built upon the unparalleled strength of American technology. In the 1950s, the Department of Defense successfully “offset” the Soviet Union’s conventional military superiority by strengthening our nuclear deterrent, and in the 1970s we again cemented our military dominance through innovation in precision munitions, stealth, and a new generation of space based ISR and communications technologies, the so-called “second offset.” Today, this offset dynamic is being reversed. China is pursuing an “offset strategy” of its own to overcome our conventional superiority by winning the race to dominate the next generation of technology…China sees offensive cyber capabilities, anti-satellite weapons, electronic warfare tools, hypersonic weapons, artificial intelligence, and quantum technologies as key to enabling [China] to win wars in future, high-tech conditions and offset the advantages of the U.S. military, and has made significant strides in all of these areas.

Mr. Carter lays out a number of recommendations the U.S. should undertake in recognition of the growing technological prowess of China.  A central tenant to his recommendations:

“…should be government investment in R&D and innovation. China has realized the essential role that both public and private R&D investments play in technologies like AI, but the U.S. increasingly depends on commercial R&D alone. Corporate research has a major role to play in advancing our nation’s technological capacity, but the developers in these groups are often only focused on projects with immediate and guaranteed commercial applications. There is little incentive for most companies to fund sustained work on exploratory projects with long incubation periods and uncertain prospects for returns like fundamental research into quantum computing. The federal government is in a unique position to be able to support basic research which may not pay off for 20-30 years, but, like the internet, may prove revolutionary (emphasis added)

“Unfortunately, U.S. commitment to support public sector R&D is flagging. After the July 2017 announcement of China’s new AI development plan, local and provincial governments announced billions of dollars of support to the industry, with the cities of Xiangtan and Tianjin alone pledging a collective $7 billion to MI projects. In comparison, total U.S. government R&D investment in AI was $1.1 billion in 2015, and the Trump administration’s proposed budget would have cut the NSF’s AI research funding by 10%. The U.S. government should be expanding, not curtailing, R&D funding for technologies like AI, leveraging research vehicles like DARPA, IARPA, and the national labs to advance our nation’s technological capacity and ensure we are investing in the capabilities our defense and intelligence communities will need to manage emerging threats in the future…”

Mr. Carter’s complete statement can be found here.

On January 18, the National Science Board will release Science and Engineering Indicators 2018.  The 2016 report provided information that suggested East and Southeast Asia countries had narrowed the U.S. lead in research and development.  The new Indicators will be available here once it is released on January 18.

Another Continuing Resolution Will Need to Considered by the Congress – The current stop gap funding legislation – a continuing resolution or CR – will run out on January 19.  Since December, Congressional negotiators have been meeting in an effort to reach agreement on increasing the statutory spending caps for defense and non-defense programs for FY 2018 and FY 2019.  One proposal under discussion would raise the defense cap by $72 billion in fiscal 2018 and $80 billion in fiscal 2019, while increasing the nondefense cap by $45 billion in 2018 and $50 billion in 2019.  If an agreement to re-set the spending caps has actually been finalized, this would allow the Appropriations Subcommittees to complete negotiations between the House and Senate on the details for a year-long omnibus appropriations bill.  To that end, another CR will be needed that will possibly run until mid-February.  Such a plan would presumably give the Appropriations Subcommittees the time they need to finalize their bills for funding for the balance of the fiscal year.

Novim to Release New Report Entitled Warning Signs: Effects of Proposed Federal Funding Cuts to Environmental and Climate Research and Development Programs -- Novim is a nonprofit scientific research group based at the University of California, Santa Barbara, that specializes in issues of global controversy.  On January 16, Novim will release its latest report – one that analyzes the impact of the Administration’s proposed FY 2018 budget for climate and environment research and development (CE R&D).  Warning Signs will look at the impact of the proposed reductions on such issues as research, observations, modeling, assessments, workforce development, and international relations in CE R&D. It will assess the impact of the proposed budget reductions on relevant federal agencies. Warning Signs will be released during a briefing to be held at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) on Tuesday, 11AM at 1200 New York Ave. NW in their main auditorium. On January 16, Novim’s Warning Signs report will be available here.

DOD’s Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP) Announces Funding Opportunity – ESTCP is the Department of Defense's (DoD) demonstration and validation program for environmental and installation energy technologies. The ESTCP Office is interested in receiving pre-proposals for innovative technology demonstrations that address DoD environmental and installation energy requirements as candidates for funding.  The topic areas for this solicitation include: Innovative Technology Transfer Approaches; Long Term Management of Contaminated Aquatic Sediments; Management of Contaminated Groundwater; Detection, Classification, and Remediation of Military Munitions in Underwater Environments; Department of Defense (DoD) Installation Infrastructure Risk Exposure and Resilience Decision Support Tools; Demonstration/Validation of Fluorine-Free Aqueous Film Forming Foam; Energy Efficiency Technology Demonstrations Integrated with Utility Energy Services Contracts (UESC); Effective Use of Utility and Facility Data to Improve the Management, Operation and Maintenance of Facilities; and Large Scale Energy Storage and Microgrids. Additional information including submittal instructions can be found here.  The due date for all pre-proposals is March 8, 2018 by 2:00 p.m. ET. More information about the solicitation, including instructions and deadlines, is available on the ESTCP website under Funding Opportunities.  ESTCP Director Dr. Herb Nelson and Deputy Director Dr. Andrea Leeson will conduct an online seminar “ESTCP Funding Opportunities” on January 18, 2018, from 1:30-2:30 p.m. ET. This briefing will offer information for those interested in new ESTCP funding opportunities. During the online seminar, participants may ask questions about the funding process, the current ESTCP solicitation, and the proposal submission process.

Senate Passes Coordinated Ocean Monitoring and Research Act – On January 8, the Senate passed, via unanimous consent, legislation to reauthorize the Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) program.  IOOS is a network of federal and regional entities that provide information about the nation's coasts and oceans, as well as the Great Lakes. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) must: (1) serve as the lead federal agency for the implementation of the IOOS, and (2) establish an IOOS Program Office to oversee daily operations and coordination of the IOOS. The bill outlines the requirements for NOAA as the lead agency. The bill establishes a process for regional associations to certify their regional coastal observing systems. The Joint Subcommittee on Ocean Science and Technology of the National Science and Technology Council must: (1) conduct an Ocean Chemistry Coastal Community Vulnerability Assessment on ocean acidification within a year and every five years thereafter; and (2) develop a plan to deploy ocean acidification sensors prioritized by the threat to coastal economies and ecosystems, gaps in data on ocean acidification, and research needs. The National Science Foundation's research on ocean acidification must include research on: (1) impacts of multiple stressors on ecosystems exhibiting hypoxia (a dead zone that is depleted of oxygen), harmful algal blooms (rapid accumulation of algae), or sediment delivery; and (2) the effects of those impacts combined with changes in ocean chemistry.

Barry Myers Nomination for NOAA Administrator Resubmitted by White House – As expected, this week the Administration resubmitted the nomination of Barry Myers to be the next NOAA Administrator.  Mr. Myers had been approved by the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee in December but had not yet reached the Senate floor when they adjourned for the Christmas/New Year’s break. The committee will not have to hold another hearing but it will need to vote again on his nomination in order for his nomination to reach the Senate floor.  The nomination of Dr. Neil Jacobs to be an Assistant Secretary of Commerce at NOAA also did not reach the Senate floor last year but his nomination was widely supported.  As a result, it was held over in the Senate which means the Administration will not have to re-submit Dr. Jacobs’ nomination in order for the Senate to take up that nomination.  The nomination of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Oklahoma) to be NASA Administrator has also been re-submitted in accord with Senate rules.  Approving Mr. Myers and Rep. Bridenstine will be more complicated than last year when the split was 52-48. In cases where all Democrats are anticipated to vote no, Republicans now can afford to lose only one vote. That would yield a 50-50 tie, which would be broken by Vice President Mike Pence in his role as President of the Senate.  Two Republican Senators — Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) — are dealing with health issues and their attendance in the Senate is uncertain.  Rumors are that between one and three Republicans have reservations about the Bridenstine nomination, so who exactly is in the Senate chamber when the vote is taken could determine the outcome.  It is unlikely that a nomination would be brought to the floor for a vote if Senate leadership was not certain it would pass.

NSF Invites Proposals for I-Corps Sites -- The National Science Foundation (NSF) seeks to develop and nurture a national innovation ecosystem that builds upon research to guide the output of scientific discoveries closer to the development of technologies, products and processes that benefit society.  In order to contribute to a national innovation ecosystem, NSF established the NSF Innovation Corps Sites Program (NSF I-Corps Sites). Sites are funded at academic institutions, having already existing innovation or entrepreneurial units, to enable them to: nurture students and/or faculty who are engaged in projects having the potential to be transitioned into the marketplace; and develop formal, active, local innovation ecosystems that contribute to a larger, national network of mentors, researchers, entrepreneurs and investors. Networking is an essential component of all of NSF's I-Corps activities - local and national networking activities help advance the goals of I-Corps and contribute to local and national ecosystems for innovation. The purpose of an I-Corps Site is to nurture and support multiple, local teams to transition their ideas, devices, processes or other intellectual activities into the marketplace.  A copy of the NSF solicitation is available here.

Public Comments Requested on Draft of IPCC Report -- The U.S. Department of State seeks expert comment on the second-order draft of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on “Impacts of Global Warming of 1.5°C Above Pre-Industrial Levels and Related Global Greenhouse Gas Emission Pathways, in the Context of Strengthening the Global Response to the Threat of Climate Change, Sustainable Development, and Efforts to Eradicate Poverty” (aka the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C).  General information such as the Special Report outline and assessment development timeline/procedures can be found on the USGCRP Open Notices page; more detailed information—i.e., an IPCC guidance note, more background, review instructions, supplementary materials, and the draft report itself (including the first draft of its Summary for Policymakers)—can be found on the USGCRP Review and Comment System. You must first register for the review and agree to the terms before being granted access to the site. Consult the Federal Register Notice for a brief summary of the process.  Comments are solicited from the U.S. scientific community and interested stakeholders. All comments must be input via the USGCRP Review and Comment System by 11:59 p.m. ET, Thursday, 8 February 2018, if they are to be considered by the Federal expert panel tasked with preparing the U.S. transmittal to IPCC.

A Periodic Federal Science Update

Congressional Leaders Continue to Negotiate on Defense and Nondefense Spending levels for FY 2018 with the Current Stop-gap Funding Measure Set to Expire on January 19 - Negotiations between the White House and congressional leaders will continue after parties outlined starkly different budget priorities yesterday, signaling that a final fiscal 2018 spending deal may not be imminent on Capitol Hill. An hour long bipartisan meeting this week did not yield any clear breakthroughs on an impasse that is now into its fourth month. The session, hosted by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), included Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney and White House Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short.

Both parties and the White House are aiming for a deal on overall discretionary spending levels for the next two years before current federal funding runs out on Jan. 19 and agencies face their latest threat of a shutdown. Absent an agreement, Congress would have to pass another stopgap funding measure – a CR. Even with something in hand, a brief continuing resolution may be necessary to give appropriators time to write a final fiscal 2018 omnibus.

After the meeting, participants emphasized the need for funding the military and border security and warned Democrats against seeking to include immigration policy riders.  Republicans want a boost in defense spending and to hold the line on domestic funding. Democrats continue to insist military and non-defense accounts should be treated with "parity."  Democrats also said that the budget deal must focus on additional of issues beyond funding levels, including providing a fix for coal miners' benefits teetering on financial insolvency and delivering disaster aid for areas hit by hurricanes and wildfires.  Democrats will also press for protections for young undocumented immigrants (DACA), extending a childrens' health program and addressing the opioid crisis.

NAS Releases Decadal Strategy for Earth Observation from Space --   NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the United States Geological Survey (USGS) should implement a coordinated approach for their space-based environmental observations to further advance Earth science and applications for the next decade, says a new report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. This approach should be based on key scientific questions in areas such as reducing climate uncertainty, improving weather and air quality forecasts, predicting geological hazards, and understanding sea-level rise. The report also recommends building a robust, resilient, and balanced U.S. program of Earth observations from space that will enable the agencies to strategically advance the science and applications with constrained resources.  This is the second National Academies decadal survey for Earth science and applications from space.

Building on the first decadal survey, which was published in 2007, it identifies top science priorities, observational needs, and opportunities for U.S. space-based Earth observations in the coming decade. Over the last decade, the report says space-based Earth observations – which provide a global perspective of Earth – have transformed our scientific understanding of the planet, revealing it to be an integrated system of dynamic interactions between the atmosphere, ocean, land, ice, and human society. These observations also play a critical role in national security. For example, understanding sea-level rise and impacts of ocean warming associated with climate change is important for naval operations.

The committee developed a set of 35 key questions on Earth science and applications spanning the full range of Earth system science. The questions comprehensively address areas in which advances in Earth science and information capabilities are most needed to improve knowledge about the complex Earth system and allow the development of numerous applications that enable a sustainable and thriving society. Some of the top priority questions identified by the committee are:

·      How can environmental predictions of weather and air quality be extended to seamlessly forecast Earth system conditions at lead times of one week to two months?

·      How do anthropogenic changes in climate, land use, water use, and water storage interact and modify the water and energy cycles, and what are the short- and long-term consequences?

·      What processes determine the long-term variations and trends in air pollution and their subsequent long-term recurring and cumulative impacts on human health, agriculture, and ecosystems?

·      What are the structure, function, and biodiversity of Earth’s ecosystems, and how and why are they changing in time and space?

·      How much will sea levels rise over the next decade, and what will be the role of ice sheets and ocean heat storage?

·      How can large-scale geological hazards be accurately forecast in a socially relevant time frame?

To address these questions, the committee recommended implementing an innovative observing program that builds on the existing and planned instruments and satellites of the U.S. and the international community. The proposed program reflects new needs associated with eight priority observations, including aerosols, clouds and precipitation, Earth’s bulk mass movements, global land and vegetation characteristics, deformation and changes within the Earth’s surface, and three others to be selected competitively from among seven candidates. Each of these are to be measured through a space-based instrument or suite of instruments, and together are intended to ensure effective exploration of the highest priorities among the survey’s 35 key science and applications questions. Investments in Earth observation capabilities have failed to keep pace with the increasing information needs of businesses and individuals and the overall value of this information to the nation, the report says. Although budget constraints will remain a practical concern during the next decade in terms of progress with new space-based observational capabilities, the committee recommended innovative methods for achieving progress within those constraints.

Research priorities and objectives in this report were developed by a primary steering committee based on input from five interdisciplinary study panels. The panels and committee also received over 300 written white papers from the research community in response to two separate requests for input. In addition, the survey had continual engagement with the community via town halls that were held during annual meetings of a number of professional societies, as well as via webinars, newsletters, and briefings. The study was funded by the NASA, NOAA, and USGS.

Administration’s National Security Strategy Emphasizes Innovation in Selected Areas -- On Dec. 18, President Trump released his National Security Strategy, a document that sets a broad framework for the nation’s military, diplomatic, economic, immigration, and homeland security policy. The document highlights scientific research and technological innovation and specifically identifies a number of priority areas for R&D that federal science agencies are likely to consider as they manage their research portfolios. These include advanced computing, data science, artificial intelligence, autonomous technology, encryption, gene editing, novel materials, and nanotechnology. The strategy identifies nuclear technology, next-generation nuclear reactors, improved batteries, carbon capture technology, and opportunities at the energy–water nexus as means of preserving the nation’s “technological edge” in energy. The strategy also considers the need for training, attracting, and retaining innovators and inventors and for protecting intellectual property.

Confirmation Process for NOAA Nominees -- With the end of the first session of the 115th Congress, the Administration will now have to resubmit the nominations of many of the individuals that had been nominated last year but had not yet reached the Senate floor for a final confirmation vote.  Such is the case for Mr. Barry Myers who has nominated to be the NOAA Administrator.  Mr. Myers’ nomination was approved by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on a party line vote of 15 to 14.  All indications point to the Administration re-submitting Mr. Myers’ nomination.  The committee will not have to hold another hearing but it will need to vote again on his nomination in order for his nomination to reach the Senate floor.  The nomination of Dr. Neil Jacobs to be an Assistant Secretary of Commerce at NOAA also did not reach the Senate floor last year but his nomination was widely supported.  As a result it was held over in the Senate which means the Administration will not have to re-submit Dr. Jacobs’ nomination in order for the Senate to take up that nomination.

Air Force Science and Technology Study – The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is soliciting universities and other entities to conduct Technical Forecasting Studies and/or Organizational and Processes Studies to develop recommendations regarding how the Air Force should prepared today for national security requirements in the year 2030 and beyond. These studies need to identify focus areas in basic and applied research for the Air Force to pursue and also identify effective business practices and organizational structures to manage early state research including exploitation of rapidly developing science and technology.  More information on this funding opportunity is available here.

A Periodic Federal Science Update

Congress Averts Government Shutdown with Another Continuing Resolution – By a vote of 66-32, the Senate passed HR 1370, a CR that will fund the government through January 19, 2018.  The Senate vote follows this afternoon's 231-188 vote in the House.  The bill contains a provision which suspends the sequestration that would have been required by this CR. The new CR maintains programs at the FY17 level, a level that exceeds the current statutory spending caps for FY18 and without the suspension provision, a sequestration would have been triggered.  By a vote of 251-169, the House also passed HR 4667, an $81B disaster supplemental.   Senate consideration of this third disaster supplemental in response to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, as well as wildfires, could be delayed until January.

This CR will allow negotiations to continue between the Congress and the White House on raising discretionary spending levels for defense and non-defense programs for FY18 and a legislative solution for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.  Once the parties reach agreement on new defense and non-defense spending levels, the pending individual appropriations bills may be finalized by House and Senate appropriation conferees.

Congress Passes Tax Reform Legislation – This week the House and Senate passed and sent to the President a major legislative initiative that makes sweeping changes in the Nation’s tax code. The final bill includes the following key provisions:

·      37% top income tax rate;

·      21% corporate tax;

·      Up to $10k of state or property taxes can be deducted;

·      Removes the tax on graduate student tuition waivers;

·      Maintains estate tax but raises threshold to qualify to about $11 million from $5.49 million;

·      Pass-throughs get a 20% deduction on their income;

·      Preserves the individual Alternative Minimum Tax;

·      Gets rid of the proposed corporate AMT;

·      Mortgage interest deduction cap would be lowered to $750,000 from the current $1 million; and

·      Individual mandate contained in the Affordable Health Care Act is eliminated.

The agreement sets the top individual tax rate at 37%, which is less than the current rate of 39.6% and lower than the top rate in each of the bills that passed the House and Senate.  With respect to state and local tax deductions, the would cap that deduction at $10,000. The corporate rate would be cut to 21% and would take effect in 2018.

The agreement eliminates the corporate alternative-minimum tax. Keeping that, as the Senate bill did, would have undercut the value of many popular business-tax breaks, including a research-and-development tax credit. The bill would retain the individual alternative minimum tax with exemptions for incomes up to $500,000 for individuals and $1 million for married couples, much higher than current law. 

The final agreement drops some of the more controversial changes in the House plan, including taxes on graduate-student tuition waivers, the repeal of deductions for student-loan interest and medical expenses and the end of tax-free private activity bonds used for projects such as hospitals and affordable housing.  The Tax Policy Center has a detailed summary of the final tax reform bill here.

NOAA Announces Funding Opportunity for Cooperative Institute for Modeling the Earth System – NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) invites applications for the establishment of a Cooperative Institute (CI) for Modeling the Earth System. This new cooperative institute supports the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) as it works toward advancing NOAA’s ability to understand and predict variations and changes in weather, climate, oceans and coastal systems on a spectrum of timescales, through advanced numerical modeling of the Earth System’s physical, dynamical, chemical, biogeochemical, and ecological processes. The scope of the new Cooperative Institute incorporates explicitly the consideration of the unforced variability of the Earth System, natural and anthropogenic forcings that include regional contributions and feedbacks, which together govern the response and temporal evolution of the Earth system (IPCC, 2001, 2013). Current state-of-the-art coupled climate models used to forecast weather-to-climate conditions particularly from subseasonal to seasonal to interannual to decadal and longer timescales must be improved dramatically. Fundamental research is needed to improve the representation of many processes and interactions of importance if these models are to fulfill their promise of advancing the scientific understanding and prediction and addressing NOAA’s goals. Consistent with the National Research Council, “A National Strategy for Advancing Climate Modeling” (2012) recommendation of a focus on advancing climate modeling across the continuum of time scales from weather-to-climate, this new Cooperative Institute is expected to conduct research and modeling across the continuum extending from the weather all the way to multidecadal timescales, covering processes, phenomena, variations, changes, and extremes. A copy of the funding announcement is available here.

Bipartisan Legislation Introduced to Address Coastal Communities and Ocean Acidification-- Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) recently introduced the Coastal Communities Ocean Acidification Act of 2017 to identify and assess communities, including island communities, low-population rural communities, and subsistence communities, that are most dependent on coastal and ocean resources that may be impacted by ocean acidification. This bipartisan bill was introduced with Senators Cantwell (D-WA), Collins (R-ME), Peters (D-MI), and Whitehouse (D-RI). The Coastal Communities Ocean Acidification Act of 2017 would conduct coastal community vulnerability assessments related to Ocean Acidification.  The act strengthens collaborations with a wide range of stakeholders including Indigenous Knowledge groups, IOOS, regional Ocean Acidification Networks, and Sea Grant into the planning and implementation of coastal community vulnerability assessments. The act requires that the assessment identifies: (1) the communities that are most dependent on ocean and coastal resources, (2) the nature of the social and economic vulnerabilities of the communities, and (3) identify the harmful impacts of ocean acidification on those communities.

NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) Announces Summer Student Internship Program -- Virtually all the meteorological data collected over the globe arrives at NCEP, where environmental scientists analyze this information and generate a wide variety of environmental guidance information. NCEP delivers national and global weather, water, climate and space weather guidance, forecasts, warnings and analyses to a broad range of users and partners. These products and services respond to user needs to protect life and property, enhance the nation's economy, and support the nation's growing need for environmental information. NCEP is offering up to 10 paid summer internships targeted towards current undergraduate and graduate students to work in areas that will meet the future needs of the ever-broadening user community and address the strategic climate-water-weather issues. Each student will collaborate with one or more scientists at our five centers located in College Park, MD: Climate Prediction Center, Environmental Modeling Center, NOAA Central Operations, Ocean Prediction Center, and Weather Prediction Center.  More information on NCEP’s internship program is available here

A Periodic Federal Science Update

Congress Considers Another Continuing Resolution – The Federal Government is currently operating on a second Continuing Resolution (CR) for FY 2018 until December 22.  The CR allows most federal programs to continue operating at levels close the FY 2017 level.  On December 13, Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, introduced a third CR that would run until January 19, 2018.  This CR carries provisions that would waive automatic cuts to defense spending and temporarily delays the automatic cuts to non-defense spending.  Without these waivers, the Budget Control Act would trigger automatic budget reductions called a sequester.  This CR would fund national defense for the balance of the fiscal year, extend the Children’s Health Insurance Program and continue short-term government operations.  This CR does not include emergency aid for hurricane and wildfire states and territories.  While this CR will likely pass in the House, most observers expect the Senate to remove the yearlong defense appropriations portion of the CR before they take up this third CR.

This CR surfaces as negotiations continue between the Congress and the White House on raising discretionary spending levels for defense and non-defense programs, emergency funding for hurricane and wildfire states and territories, and a legislative solution for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.  Once the parties reach agreement on new defense and non-defense spending levels, the pending individual appropriations bills can be finalized by House and Senate appropriation conferees.

Congress Moves to Finalize Tax Reform Legislation – House and Senate negotiators announced an agreement in principle that would reportedly reduce taxes by $1.4 trillion over a decade.  The final bill is expected to include the following provisions:

·      37% top income tax rate;

·      21% corporate tax;

·      Up to $10k of state or property taxes can be deducted;

·      Removes the tax on graduate student tuition waivers;

·      Maintains estate tax but raises threshold to qualify to about $11 million from $5.49 million;

·      Pass-throughs get a 20% deduction on their income;

·      Preserves the individual Alternative Minimum Tax;

·      Gets rid of the proposed corporate AMT;

·      Mortgage interest deduction cap would be lowered to $750,000 from the current $1 million; and

·      Individual mandate contained in the Affordable Health Care Act is eliminated.

The agreement is expected to set the top individual tax rate at 37%, which is less than the current rate of 39.6% and lower than the top rate in each of the bills that passed the House and Senate.  Members are moving to soften the elimination of provisions that allow state and local tax deductions.  Rather than fully repeal the deduction, the compromise would cap it at $10,000.  The corporate rate would be cut to 21% and would take effect in 2018. The Senate bill had delayed that rate cut—from today’s 35%—until 2019. 

The agreement is also expected to eliminate the corporate alternative-minimum tax. Keeping that, as the Senate bill did, would have undercut the value of many popular business-tax breaks, including a research-and-development tax credit. The bill would retain the individual alternative minimum tax with exemptions for incomes up to $500,000 for individuals and $1 million for married couples, much higher than current law. 

The final agreement is expected to drop some of the more controversial changes in the House plan, including taxes on graduate-student tuition waivers, the repeal of deductions for student-loan interest and medical expenses and the end of tax-free private activity bonds used for projects such as hospitals and affordable housing.  More details are expected to be available in time for the compromise agreement to be considered in the House and Senate next week.

DARPA Announces Oceans of Things Program Solicitation -- DARPA has announced its Ocean of Things program, which seeks to enable persistent maritime situational awareness over large ocean areas by deploying thousands of small, low-cost floats that could form a distributed sensor network. Each smart float would contain a suite of commercially available sensors to collect environmental data—such as ocean temperature, sea state, and location—as well as activity data about commercial vessels, aircraft, and even maritime mammals moving through the area. The floats would transmit data periodically via satellite to a cloud network for storage and real-time analysis.  The technical challenge for Ocean of Things lies in two key areas: float development and data analytics. 

Under float development, proposers must design an intelligent float to house a passive sensor suite that can survive in harsh maritime environments. Each float would report information from its surroundings for at least one year before safely scuttling itself in the deep ocean. The floats will be required to be made of environmentally safe materials, pose no danger to vessels, and comply with all federal laws, regulations, and executive orders related to protection of marine life.

The data analytics portion of the Ocean of Things program will require proposers to develop cloud-based software and analytic techniques to process the floats’ reported data. This effort includes dynamic display of float locations, health, and mission performance; processing of environmental data for oceanographic and meteorological models; developing algorithms to automatically detect, track, and identify nearby vessels; and identification of new indicators of maritime activity.

A Proposers Day is scheduled for January 4, 2018, in Arlington, Virginia, at the DARPA Conference Center. Registration instructions and further details are available here.  DARPA expects to release a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) solicitation soon, which will be available on FedBizOpps.

ARPA-E Announces Solicitation to Fund $100 Million for Transformative Energy Projects -- The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced up to $100 million in funding for new projects as part of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy’s (ARPA‑E) latest OPEN funding opportunity. OPEN will support America’s top innovators through dozens of early-stage research and development projects as they build technologies to transform the nation’s energy system.  ARPA-E has issued previous OPEN solicitations in 2009, 2012, and 2015. Open solicitations enable ARPA-E to support transformational projects outside the scope of existing ARPA-E focused programs. The projects selected under OPEN in 2018 will pursue novel approaches to energy innovation across the full spectrum of energy applications. The agency collaborates across the department’s extensive research enterprise, providing support that complements existing DOE-wide initiatives. The deadline to submit a concept paper is February 12, 2018 at 5:00 p.m. E.T. For additional information on the OPEN funding opportunity, please visit here.

USAID Announces $70 Million to Build Global Research Network -- The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is seeking applications for a five-year, $70 million cooperative agreement with a U.S. university to establish a strong international network to solve pressing development challenges through research. The university-led network will work with USAID to engage academics and stakeholders in identifying and refining critical development research questions. The project will fund research that engages universities, policymakers, and civil society to achieve maximum development impact. Finally, the network aims to increase the human and institutional capacity of higher education institutions in low- and middle-income countries – with the aim of forging stronger ties between U.S. and low- and middle- income country universities.  USAID estimates that approximately 30-40 percent of the yearly core funding will be dedicated to supporting recipient-identified development research questions as well as the subsequent design, solicitation, and execution of research activities. The remainder of the core funds will cover operating, management, and implementation costs of the grant, including the management and support of a broad international network of researchers and higher education institutions responding to key research questions. More information is available here.

NSF Announces James Ulvestad as Chief Officer for Research Facilities -- The National Science Foundation (NSF) announced this week that James S. Ulvestad will serve as the agency's first Chief Officer for Research Facilities (CORF), a position created in recognition of the critical role research infrastructure plays in science and engineering.  Dr. Ulvestad will advise the NSF director on all aspects of the agency's support for major and mid-scale research facilities throughout their lifecycle. He will also collaborate with NSF employees involved in oversight and assistance of the NSF multiuser research facilities portfolio. Ulvestad will begin his duties as CORF Jan. 2. The need for broad oversight of NSF-supported research facilities was recognized by Congress in the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act (AICA), enacted in 2017, which requires NSF to "appoint a senior agency official whose responsibility is oversight of the development, construction, and operations of major multiuser research facilities across the Foundation."

Senate Commerce Committee Reports Out Nomination of Barry Myers to be Next NOAA Administrator – Along party lines (by a vote of 15-14), the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee approved the nomination of Barry Lee Myers to be the next NOAA Administrator.  The next step in the confirmation process is for the full Senate to consider his nomination.  Senate floor action has not yet been scheduled.  Democrats on the Committee opposed Mr. Myers’ nomination due to their concerns, as yet unresolved, regarding potential for conflicts of interest between his current employer, Accuweather, and serving as the NOAA Administrator.  Senator Bill Nelson's statement summarizing his concerns can be found here.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Announces Funding for Great Lakes Restoration Initiative -- The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative targets the most significant environmental problems in the Great Lakes ecosystem by funding and implementing federal projects that address these problems. One goal is to improve habitat and wildlife protection and restoration. Using appropriations from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), Partners for Fish and Wildlife (PFW) Program anticipates funding wetland (both coastal and interior) and associated upland habitat restoration and enhancement projects for conservation of native Great Lakes fish and wildlife populations, particularly migratory birds and, as appropriate, federally-listed species. Emphasis will be placed on, but not limited to, completing projects within the watersheds of Great Lakes Areas of Concern and in coastal zones. More information can be found in the Notice of Funding Opportunity available here.

NSF Study Shows State Government R&D Expenditures Increase by 3.1% -- State government agency expenditures for research and development totaled $2.3 billion in FY 2016, an increase of 3.1% from FY 2015. Five state governments (California, New York, Texas, Florida, and Ohio) accounted for 64% of all state government R&D in FY 2016 (table 2). NSF’s latest InfoBriefpresents summary statistics from the FY 2016 Survey of State Government Research and Development, sponsored by the National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES). The FY 2016 survey presents the most recent NCSES statistics of R&D activities performed and funded by state government agencies in each of the 50 states, as well as the municipal government of the District of Columbia. Survey data are available by state and by individual state agency. Further details are also available on R&D performer (intramural and extramural), source of funding, type of R&D (basic research, applied research, and experimental development), and R&D by government function (agriculture, energy, environment and natural resources, health, transportation, and other).

NSF InfoBrief Shows U.S. R&D Increased by $20 Billion in 2015 to $495 Billion; 2016 to Rise to $510 Billion — New data from the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) within the National Science Foundation (NSF) indicate that research and experimental development (R&D) performed in the United States totaled $495.1 billion in 2015. The estimated total for 2016, based on performer-reported expectations, is $510.0 billion. These numbers compare to U.S. R&D totals of $454.0 billion in 2013 and $475.4 billion in 2014. In 2008—just before the onset of the main economic effects of the national and international financial crisis and the Great Recession—the U.S. total was $404.8 billion. These data reflect sizable increases of $21.5 billion in 2014 and $19.7 billion in 2015. After essentially no change between 2008 and 2010, year-over-year increases in the U.S. total from 2010 to 2015 averaged $17.7 billion. The 2016 increase is estimated to be $14.8 billion. The 2014 and 2015 increases are mainly due to higher levels of business R&D performance. However, as presently estimated, the business sector's role is noticeably less predominant in the 2016 increase.  Adjusted for inflation, growth in U.S. total R&D averaged 1.4% annually over the 7-year period 2008–15, marginally behind the 1.5% the average pace of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) over the same period. By comparison, the average annual rate of growth was notably higher in the prior 10-year period (1998–2008): 3.6% for total R&D, and 2.2% for GDP. In part, the smaller average pace of R&D growth in 2008–15 reflects the inclusion of the Great Recession years (notably, 2009 and 2010). If just the 5-year period of 2010 to 2015 is considered, the average annual pace of growth is 2.3%, compared to 2.2% for GDP. The growth of business R&D over this same 5-year period is 3.3%, well ahead of GDP growth, but it is not strong enough to offset the slower average rates of growth (if not outright declines) in some of the other performing sectors. The estimate for 2016 shows R&D also expanding only a little faster than the pace of GDP (1.7%, compared to 1.5% for GDP).

A Periodic Federal Science Update

Congress Extends Stop Gap Funding for the Federal Government Until December 22 — After much posturing on all sides, late last week, prior to its expiration on December 8, Congress passed an extension to the existing Continuring Resolution (CR).  The new CR, which will allow Federal agencies and programs to continue to operate at levels close to the FY 2017 levels, will provide funding until December 22.  During this time Congress is expected to continue negotiations to revise current statutory spending caps for defense and non-defense discretionary programs, complete the ongoing tax reform bill conference, continue work on supplementary disaster relief assistance, DACA legislation, and extend the Children’s Health Insurance Program.  

Senate Commerce Committee Expected to Consider Nomination for Next NOAA Administrator —On December 13, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee will take up the nomination of Mr. Barry Lee Myers to be the next NOAA Administrator.  The Committee held his confirmation hearing on November 29.  More information on the hearing and Mr. Myers’ nomination can be found here. Should Mr. Myers’ nomination be approved by the Committee, the next step would be for the full Senate to vote on his nomination. In addtion to Mr. Myers’ nomination, the Committee will take up legislation to reauthorized the NOAA integrate drought information system program, and the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program Reauthorization Act of 2017.

National Ocean Policy Hearing to be Held — On December 12, the Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard, will convene a hearing titled “National Ocean Policy: Stakeholder Perspectives,” at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, December 12, 2017. The hearing will examine the state of the National Ocean Policy and the program’s interaction with existing laws and regulations for ocean management. Witnesses will include:  Ms. Bonnie Brady, Executive Director, Long Island Commercial Fishing Association; Mr. Christopher Guith, Senior Vice President, Global Energy Institute, U.S. Chamber of Commerce;  Mr. Dan Keppen, Executive Director, Family Farm Alliance; and Ms. Kathy Metcalf, President and CEO, Chamber of Shipping of America.  The hearing will take place in Russell Senate Office Building, Room 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.

Tax Reform Legislation Could Have Adverse Impacts on Students and Institutions of Higher Education — House and Senate Are Now in Conference Attempting to Resolve Their Differing Versions — There are number of issues in these bills that are problematic for institutions of higher education and/or students.  For example, the House bill proposes to eliminate a section from the existing tax code which allows colleges and universities to provide their employees and their spouses or dependents with tuition reductions for undergraduate education that are excluded from taxable income. This same section of the current code also allows colleges and universities to lower the cost of graduate education for their students who are serving as teaching or research assistants as part of their academic training without the tuition reductions being treated as taxable income.  The House bill also proposes to eliminate the allowance for employers to provide tuition reimbursement to employees, tax free which encourages the private sector’s investment in the advancement of its employees and encouraging partnerships with colleges and universities. 

The Senate bill is not as problematic to the higher education community as the House bill as it retains the student benefits the House version would eliminate including the House’s provision to tax tuition waivers for graduate students. The Senate bill creates a new excise tax on endowments at certain private institutions. The Senate bill does contain a number of other provisions that would negatively impact students and institutions by reducing charitable giving, increasing costs and the regulatory burden on many colleges and universities, reducing the ability to access tax-exempt bonds for capital projects, and threatening state investment in higher education.  An excellent “side by side” of the House and Senate bills’ provisions impact students and institutions of higher education can be found here.

NSF Releases Latest Science and Engineering State Profiles — State Profiles is an interactive website providing access to state-level data on science and engineering (S&E) personnel and finances and state rankings. State Profiles displays up to 7 state profiles of the user’s choice. Data are available from surveys sponsored by the National Science Foundation on employed science, engineering, or health (SEH) doctorate holders; S&E doctorates awarded, including by major S&E fields; SEH graduate students and postdoctorates; federal research and development obligations by agency and performer; total and business R&D expenditures; and higher education R&D performance, including by major S&E fields. Data available from other sources include population, civilian labor force, per capita personal income, federal expenditures, patents, small business innovation research awards, and gross domestic product. All data are available for download. Data cover 2003 to present.  View the data here.

A Periodic Federal Science Update

Controversial Tax Reform Legislation Passes in the Senate – Last night, just before 2AM on Saturday, December 2, the Senate passed their version of major tax reform legislation 51-49 with Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) the only Republican not voting for the bill.  The House passed a different version of tax reform a few weeks ago.  The Senate bill, which included about $1.4 trillion in tax cuts, would lower the corporate rate to 20% from 35%, reshape international business tax rules and temporarily lower individual taxes. It also contained other provisions, including opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling and repealing the mandate that individuals purchase health insurance, which would adversely impact the 2010 Affordable Care Act. But some objectives, such as repealing the alternative minimum tax, fell by the wayside in the last minute amendment process.  The Senate bill can be read here. The House and Senate bills differ and will have to be resolved in conference.  Congressional leadership is hopeful they can resolve their differences, have a final compromise bill passed (again) in identical form by both Houses of Congress, and on the President’s desk for signature by Christmas.

There are number of issues in these bills that are problematic for institutions of higher education and/or students.  For example, the House bill proposes to eliminate a section from the existing tax code which allows colleges and universities to provide their employees and their spouses or dependents with tuition reductions for undergraduate education that are excluded from taxable income. This same section of the current code also allows colleges and universities to lower the cost of graduate education for their students who are serving as teaching or research assistants as part of their academic training without the tuition reductions being treated as taxable income.  The House bill also proposes to eliminate the allowance for employers to provide tuition reimbursement to employees, tax free which encourages the private sector’s investment in the advancement of its employees and encouraging partnerships with colleges and universities.  

The Senate bill is not as problematic to the higher education community as the House bill as it retains the student benefits the House version would eliminate including the House’s provision to tax tuition waivers for graduate students. The Senate bill creates a new excise tax on endowments at certain private institutions. Senator Tomey had included an amendment that provided a special exemption to this excise tax for a single institution — Hillsdale College in Michigan. Towards the end of the debate, with Democrats objecting to this special provision, Senator Merkely offered an amendment to remove this exemption which was adopted by the vote of 52 to 48. The Senate bill does contain a number of provisions that would negatively impact students and institutions by reducing charitable giving, increasing costs and the regulatory burden on many colleges and universities, reducing the ability to access tax-exempt bonds for capital projects, and threatening state investment in higher education. 

To address concerns of Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), the Senate bill will allow taxpayers to deduct up to $10,000 in state and local property taxes paid and allow lower-income individuals to claim the medical expense deduction.  In an effort to get Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona on board, leaders agreed to work on providing “fair and permanent protections” for the beneficiaries of an Obama-era effort that protects young undocumented immigrants from deportation, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.

The Association of Public & Land Grant Universities (APLU) has highlighted many of these issues in their analysis available here.  The Association of American Universities (AAU) has also identified shortcomings of the House and Senate proposals. The American Council on Education (ACE) also released a letter commenting on the Senate bill representing the interests of 46 different higher education associations.  Additional information will be available in the coming days as the House and Senate prepare to try and reconcile their versions of their tax reform bills.

On November 15, about 40 different scientific societies and associations co-signed a letter expressing concerns about the tax reform legislation.  The lettersigned by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Association of Marine Laboratories, the Consortium for Ocean Leadership, the American Meteorological Society, the American Geophysical Union and others said, “…While the goal of the House tax reform plan is to help grow the U.S. economy, the language to repeal the student loan interest deduction, graduate student tuition waivers, the Hope Scholarship Credit, the Lifetime Learning Credit and educational assistance programs ultimately will have the opposite effect. By making advanced education less affordable, it is likely to drive some students away from seeking higher education. Because a majority of graduate students are in the key areas of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), these provisions will have an outsized impact in the sciences…” 

Funding the Federal Government After December 8 -- As for funding the Federal Government past Dec 8 when the current continuing resolution expires, Congress and the White House remain locked in discussions that have centered around increasing the statutory spending caps for defense and non-defense discretionary programs.  The White House and Republicans want to substantially increase defense spending while Democrats are pushing for increases in non-defense spending and a legislative solution to the DACA issue that would allow so-called “dreamers” to remain in the U.S. These negotiations have yet to result in an agreement.  With the December 8 deadline looming, Congress will have to extend the continuing resolution or the Nation faces a Federal Government shutdown.  Currently in the House there are plans to pass an extension to the current continuing resolution until December 22 and then a second one running until mid-January.  This would leave the Congress more time to complete negotiations on adjusting the overall spending caps and resolving differences on the pending appropriations bills.  Democrats may not support the new continuing resolution as they are advocating for a legislative package that increases domestic spending, reauthorizes the Children’s Health Insurance Program and the DACA immigration issue.  While House Republicans can pass the CR with their majority in the House, the CR will need 60 votes to pass in the Senate.  Whether a sufficient number of Senate Democrats would support the CR, and thus provide the necessary 60 votes, remains to be seen.

Senate Commerce Committee Holds Confirmation Hearing for Barry Myers to be Next NOAA Administrator – On November 29, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee held a confirmation hearing for Mr. Barry Lee Myers to be the next NOAA Administrator.  Mr. Myers, in his opening statement and in subsequent exchanges with Senators on the Committee, affirmed his strong support for NOAA and its missions in weather, climate, research, fisheries, the oceans, coasts and Great Lakes, and satellites.  Going into the hearing, there were a number of concerns about Mr. Myers and his views on climate change, scientific research, potential conflicts of interests, and his past support for a controversial bill sponsored by former Senator Santorum from Pennsylvania that sought to limit certain forecasting activities of the National Weather Service.  

Mr. Myers gave strong assurances to the Committee that: he would divest completely his financial relationships with Accuweather and related businesses; climate change was in fact real and he agreed with Senator Markey when asked if such change is precipitated by human actions; he appreciates and supports the conduct of scientific research and the use of the peer review process by the scientific community to validate science; he supports NOAA’s scientific integrity policy developed by the prior Administration and would not limit agency scientists from communicating the results of their research in accord with established scientific review practices.  Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) pressed Mr. Myers on whether or not he agrees that climate change presents a serious challenge for the military, and that the data gathered by NOAA signal that preparation is necessary. Mr. Myers agreed that climate data suggest that the military should prepare for climate change. He cited the work of Defense Secretary James Mattis to address climate change risks.

When asked if he supported the budget reductions proposed by the Administration in NOAA climate research and ocean and coastal programs, Mr. Myers referred to the testimony of Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross in which the Secretary acknowledged the value of these and other programs but that with limited funds, difficult choices had to be made.  Mr. Myers did pledge to manage the agency and its budget consistent with the resources and direction provided by the Congress.  Mr. Myers’ testimony and an archived video recording of the hearing can be found here

DOE Invites Proposals for new Energy Frontier Research Centers – DOE has released a new funding opportunity for Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs) to accelerate transformative scientific advances for the most challenging topics in materials sciences, chemical sciences, geosciences, and biosciences. Research supported by this initiative will provide fundamental understanding to enable future advances in energy production and use.  The EFRC program began in 2009.  DOE currently funds 36 EFRCs, 32 of which were selected for four-year funding in 2014. With support for those centers set to expire in July 2018, DOE has announced a competition for another round of funding. The competition will be open to proposals both from existing EFRCs seeking renewal of support and from institutions seeking to establish new EFRCs under the program. Universities, national laboratories, nonprofit organizations, and private firms are eligible to compete and are encouraged to form multi-disciplinary research teams that may include partnerships with other institutions. DOE will emphasize emerging science priorities that have been highlighted in recent workshops, including quantum materials, catalysis science, synthesis science, instrumentation science, next-generation energy storage, future nuclear energy, and energy-water issues. Awards for each selected center are expected to range from $2 million to $4 million per year for a total of four fiscal years. Total funding for the EFRC program, pending Congressional appropriations, is expected to be about $99 million per year for the four-year awards. The full Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) is available here. Additional information about the EFRCs can be found here.

Universities Report Increased Federal R&D Funding after 4-year Decline -- Federal funding of higher education research and development increased in both current and constant dollars for the first time in 5 years, according to data from the Higher Education Research and Development (HERD) Survey by the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) within the National Science Foundation (NSF). When adjusted for inflation, federal funding for higher education R&D increased by 1.4% between FY 2015 and FY 2016.  Overall, universities reported current dollar R&D expenditures of $72.0 billion in FY 2016, a 4.8% increase from the FY 2015 total of $68.6 billion.  Download the NSF’s new report here.